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Particle-Induced X-Ray Emission (PIXE)

Nuclear Methods

  1. Pier A. Mandò1,
  2. Wojciech J. Przybyłowicz2,*

Published Online: 15 SEP 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470027318.a6210.pub2

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

How to Cite

Mandò, P. A. and Przybyłowicz, W. J. 2009. Particle-Induced X-Ray Emission (PIXE). Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    Dipartimento di Fisica dell'Università di Firenze and Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, Sezione di Firenze, Firenze, Italy

  2. 2

    Materials Research Group, iThemba LABS, Somerset West, South Africa

  1. *

    On leave from the Faculty of Physics and Applied Computer Science, AGH University of Science and Technology, Kraków, Poland

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2009


Particle-induced X-ray emission (PIXE) is the most popular among the ion beam analysis (IBA) techniques, which are based on the use of the specimen to be analyzed as a target for a beam of accelerated particles. The detection of the radiation induced by the beam bombardment is then used to discriminate and quantify the presence of the different elements in the specimen. In PIXE, what is exploited is, in particular, the X-rays emitted from the target, whose energies are characteristic of the emitting atomic species. After a general, simple description of the main features of PIXE, with a short historical overview and a brief comparison to other X-ray fluorescence (XRF) techniques, the article covers in greater depth all the specific aspects of this technique. The basic aspects of X-ray emission from the atoms are first recalled; then, the extraction of quantitative compositional data from thin and thick specimens is explained, and a discussion is given of the excellent performance of PIXE in terms of minimum detection limits, and of the factors affecting them. A technical description then follows of how proper beams for PIXE are produced and of the experimental setups commonly used. The X-ray detector characteristics, the electronics for constructing the energy spectra, and the software processes for their deconvolution, leading to the extraction of quantitative data, are then briefly described. The last section surveys the main analytical applications of PIXE in various fields (environmental monitoring, biomedicine, earth sciences, cultural heritage, and materials analysis), with no intent of exhaustiveness but rather with the purpose of focusing on when and why PIXE may be particularly suitable in each of them.


  • characteristic X-rays;
  • nuclear microprobe;
  • proton microprobe;
  • external beam;
  • trace elements;
  • elemental mapping;
  • micro-PIXE;
  • 3D PIXE;
  • differential PIXE;
  • dynamic analysis;
  • IBA