Published on 03-Jun-2024

A Comparison Between SDD and PIN Detector. Which is Best for XRF?

A Comparison Between SDD and PIN Detector. Which is Best for XRF?

One of the first decisions to make when buying a handheld XRF instrument is deciding between a silicon drift detector (SDD) or PIN detector. For example, the two instruments in Olympus’ affordable XRF series have different detectors: the Vanta Element-S analyzer is equipped with an SDD and the Vanta Element™ analyzer is built with a PIN detector.

Knowing the main differences between these detectors and answering key questions can help you make that decision.

SDD vs. PIN: What is the Difference?

SDDs can count around 10x more X-rays per second than PIN detectors and are a newer technology. SDD resolution is around 40 eV lower than PIN. Yet, the enhanced capability of the SDD brings an increased cost. To weigh your options, consider how you will use the XRF analyzer. Start by answering the following questions:

  • Do you need to measure any light elements, such as sulfur (S), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), potassium (K), aluminum (Al), phosphorus (P), silicon (Si), or chlorine (Cl)?

Only SDD instruments can quantify these lighter elements. Many people mistakenly believe this means aluminum alloys cannot be sorted with a PIN detector. Yet, many aluminum grades can be sorted based on the heavier element content (like chromium, copper, or iron) with a PIN detector. An SDD is needed for finer distinctions, like distinguishing between aluminum 6061 and 6063 that only vary by magnesium level.

  • Are low-level LODs required?

For an SDD, the limit of detection (LOD) is usually around 3x lower. The higher count rate also makes the SDD more sensitive and more precise than a PIN detector.

The Next Step – Deciding Between Analyzers

These questions should help you decide on a detector, which means you are one step closer to establishing the right analyzer for your application. If an SDD is required, consider the Olympus Vanta Element-S handheld XRF analyzer. It provides affordable alloy ID with light element detection.

This analyzer is precise and fast. It can identify Al, Mg, and Si in seconds. Its SDD can also distinguish similar alloy grades such as aluminum 6061 or 6063 from 1100, and 303 stainless steel from 304.

Ideal for basic PMI, scrap recycling, precious metals, and metal manufacturing, the analyzer can effectively measure copper, stainless steel, ferrous metals, nickel, aluminum, and gold karats.

If a PIN detector is required, consider the entry-level Vanta Element analyzer for affordable alloy ID.

No matter your choice, you can be confident that both analyzers come with the essential features the Vanta™ series is known for: reliability, speed, connectivity, ruggedness, and smartphone-like ease of use.

This means you can benefit from features such as:

  • Axon Technology™ for fast, reliable testing
  • IP54 rating for protection from dust and moisture
  • Modern data sharing and cloud connectivity with the Olympus Scientific Cloud™
  • Drop tested (MIL-STD-810G) to protect against falls and reduce the need for costly repairs


Produced from materials originally authored by Ted Shields, Portable Products Manager, Analytical Instruments, Olympus.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Olympus Scientific Solutions Americas NDT.

For more information on this source, please visit 

Source: AZom

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Application Notes