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Portable and Handheld Systems for Energy-Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence Analysis

X-Ray Spectrometry

  1. Roberto Cesareo1,
  2. Giovanni E. Gigante2,
  3. Alfredo Castellano3,
  4. Stefano Ridolfi4

Published Online: 15 MAR 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470027318.a6803.pub2

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

How to Cite

Cesareo, R., Gigante, G. E., Castellano, A. and Ridolfi, S. 2009. Portable and Handheld Systems for Energy-Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence Analysis. Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    Università di Sassari, Sassari, Italy

  2. 2

    Università di Roma “La Sapienza”, Rome, Italy

  3. 3

    Università di Lecce, Lecce, Italy

  4. 4

    Arsmensurae, Rome, Italy

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 MAR 2009

This is not the most recent version of the article. View current version (25 MAR 2017)


Energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) portable spectrometers are becoming very popular in many fields for the on-site analysis of elements. This is mainly because EDXRF is a nondestructive, multielemental technique that is extremely well suited for the analysis of any material.

An EDXRF spectrometer mainly consists of an X- or γ-ray excitation source, an X-ray detector with electronics, and a pulse-height analyzer. Recent technological developments have resulted in small, low-power, dedicated X-ray tubes, thermoelectrically cooled semiconductor detectors, and small pulse-height analyzers. Therefore, completely portable EDXRF spectrometers are available that can be assembled on-site, having the size of a book and a weight ranging from as light as 500 g (using a radioactive source) to a few kilograms (using an X-ray tube). These spectrometers can be employed for on-site analysis in various fields, such as works of art, alloys, soil, environmental samples, forensic medicine, paper, waste materials, mineral ores and their products, or anywhere a portable apparatus would be required.

This article reviews the present status of the development and application of EDXRF portable systems. The various components of a portable system are described: the radiation source, i.e. small, low-power, dedicated X-ray tubes or, alternatively, radioactive sources that emit X-rays or low-energy γ-rays; and X-ray detectors, i.e. proportional gas counters and semiconductor detectors, with special emphasis on the more recent thermoelectrically cooled X-ray detectors: Si-PIN (Positive-Intrinsic-Negative), Si-drift, CdTe, CdZnTe, HgI2, and others.

Commercial systems are considered, and finally the most common and significant applications are described, with particular emphasis to the field of works of art.