Published on 30-Oct-2020

How to Choose the Right Elemental Analyzer: XRF vs LIBS

How to Choose the Right Elemental Analyzer: XRF vs LIBS

Most of our readers know that material verification is important.  Dangerous equipment failures, excessive downtime, loss of profit, and ruined reputations are just some of the results of manufacturers who do not verify the materials coming into the plant or leaving the plant in the form of finished products. 

Choosing the right technology for material verification is just as important as choosing to verify the material.

There are several methods available for material verification. Traditional methods of visual/hand sorting, magnet testing, spark tests, and chemical/acid tests have become mostly obsolete because they can produce inaccurate results and are time-consuming. In addition, it’s also difficult to differentiate among the alloy grades, adhere to OSHA regulations and avoid safety liabilities.

To obtain more accurate results, businesses transitioned to laboratory spectroscopy, but there are difficulties in that as well.  Benchtop lab equipment is large, has a low throughput, and requires a skilled operator.  There’s mobile OES equipment, which can weigh anywhere from 40-80 pounds, but still is not truly portable.  It also requires a moderately-skilled operator. 

So that brings us to handheld elemental technology, which is easier to handle, has point-and-shoot capability, provides immediate results, and has a high throughput.  The latest of these technologies includes X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) and Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS).  (View our Handheld XRF and LIBS Analyzer Selection Guide for a quick glance of different features and specifications.)

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) is a non-destructive analytical technique used to determine the elemental composition of materials. Handheld XRF analyzers determine the chemistry of a sample by measuring the fluorescent (or secondary) X-ray emitted from a sample when it is excited by a primary X-ray source.

LIBS is an analytical technique that uses a laser to determine the chemical composition of materials. Handheld LIBS analyzers work by using a high-focused laser to ablate the surface of a sample. A plasma is formed consisting of electronically excited atoms and ions. As these atoms decay back into their ground states, they emit characteristic wavelengths of light, or “unique fingerprints”. These “fingerprints” are distinct for each element.

Before deciding which technology you need for your application, you should consider the following:

* What type of samples will you be analyzing? 

  • Will they be known or unknown?
  • Will they be solids, liquids, or powders?
  • Do you need a non-destructive method?

* Do you need carbon analysis?

  • How critical is carbon analysis for your business?
  • Do you need to worry about corrosion resistance, weldability, ductility, hardness, or obtaining precise identification of steel?

* What safety regulations need to be followed? 

* What type of operator training is required?

* How much time do you have to dedicate to analysis?

Our experts discussed the strengths and challenges of each of these technologies in our webinar, “How to Choose the Right Elemental Analyzer.”  They provide a full breakdown on everything you need to know so you can select the best option for your business. Sample preparation, analytical range, and training considerations are just some of the items covered.  By the time you’re finished watching, you will be able to:

  • Confidently identify the differences between XRF and LIBS
  • Understand analytical capabilities and limitations
  • Learn more about user considerations, including instrument safety, setup procedures, analyzer maintenance and sample preparation

You can download the free recording at any time.  In fact, you can register to access it right now!

Watch How to Choose the Right Elemental Analyzer

Blog By: Brian Dalton


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Application Notes