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Electron Probe Microanalysis
Related Topics:
X-ray Fluorescence (XRF)
and Synchrotron Radiation
Revised 2/1/2013
What’s the point?
We utilize the x-rays produced by the electron microprobe for
many research applications.
There are other techniques, similar in some ways, that are worth
discussing, that utilize x-rays for secondary x-ray fluorescence.
Two in particular are:
• XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence), where x-rays from a sealed tube are
used to produce x-rays by secondary fluorescence in samples of
interest (traditionally a macro-technique)
• Synchrotron Radiation, where electrons are accelerated in ~10s100s meters diameter rings, and then made to produce highly
focused beams of extremely intense x-rays or light, which are then
fed into many different types of experiments.
The benefits of secondary x-ray fluorescence include very low
detection limits (10s of ppm easy in 10 seconds, no backgrounds)
XRF Basics
The basics of XRF are very similar to those of EPMA—we are
dealing with characteristic x-rays and continuum x-rays— with
the exception that we are doing secondary fluorescence : x-ray
spectroscopy of our samples using x-rays coming out of a sealed
tube to excite the atoms in our specimen.
The big difference is that
• there is NO continuum generated in the sample (x-rays can’t
generate the Bremsstrahlung), and
• we are using BOTH characteristic x-rays of the sealed tube
target (e.g., Cr, Cu, Mo, Rh) AND continuum x-rays to generate
the characteristic x-rays of the atoms in the sample.
XRF has been a bulk analytical tool (grind up 50-100 grams of
your rock or sample to analyze), though recently people are
developing “micro XRF” to focus the beam on a ~100 mm spot.
X-ray Sources
The standard X-ray tube (top right) was
developed by Coolidge (at GE) around
It is desirable to produce the maximum
intensity of x-rays; a Cu target tube might
be able to deliver 2 kW. The limiting
factor is the heat that the target (anode)
can handle; cold water is used to remove
Higher power can be delivered by
dissipating the heat over a larger volume,
with a rotating anode (bottom right).
However, this is not normally used for
* Power in watts = current [amps] x voltage [volts]
From Als-Nielsen and McMorrow, p. 31
X-ray Attentuation
This figure shows the attenuation of the X-rays in the target (sample).
In addition to photoelectric absorption (producing characteristic X-rays and
photoelectrons [=Auger electrons]), the original X-rays may be scattered.
There are two kinds of scattering: coherent (Rayleigh) and incoherent
X-ray Scattering
Coherent scattering happens when the X-ray
collides with an atom and deviates without a
loss in energy. An electron in an alternating
electromagnetic field (e.g. X-ray photon), will
oscillate at the same frequency (in all
directions). This is useful for understanding Xray diffraction (in depth).
Incoherent scattering is where the incident Xray loses some of its energy to the scattering
electron. As total momentum is preserved, the
wavelength of the scattered photon increases
by the equation
(in Å)
where f is the scatter angle. Since f is near
90°, there will be an addition peak from the
main tube characteristic peak at about 0.024Å
higher wavelength
Compton Scattering Peaks
The top figure shows a wavelength
spectrum of the Mo Ka peak from the xray tube.
The other 3 figures show the splitting of
the primary Mo Ka peak into a Compton
Scattering Peak due to the incoherent
scattering in an Al target, and the effect of
changing the scattering angle.
From Liebhafsky et al, 1972
Continuum of X-ray Tube in XRF
Secondary fluorescence by x-rays in the sample does not
produce continuum x-rays there. However, the continuum is
produced within the selected x-ray tube which is the “gun” in
This continuum is of interest here as it is useful for excitation
source in XRF.
Kramers (1923) deduced the relationship between continuum
intensity, wavelength and atomic number of the x-ray source
I( l) · dl = KiZ{( l
) -1}{ 1 2}· dl
where the x-ray intensity I is a function of x-ray tube current i, Z
is the mean Z of the target and lmin is the E0 equivalent.
Kramers Law and Continuum Intensity
I( l) · dl = KiZ{( l
) -1}{ 1 2}· dl
Some comments:
From Williams, Fig 2.2
• for maximum XRF counts,
you want to maximize your
current (I) and minimize your
lmin which is to say 12.4/E0
…or… run at the highest
accelerating voltage your x-ray
tube can handle (40-50 keV)
• obviously, the higher the Z of
the target in the tube, the
higher the counts
• finally, Kramers Law is
sometimes used in EPMA
for theoretically modelling
the Bremsstrahlung there
On spectral presentation: XRF
Why do these look so different from our
“normal” EDS view of a spectrum?????
XRF spectrometer
An XRF spectrometer is
very similar to an electron
microprobe: just replace the
electron gun with an x-ray
tube located very close to
the specimen;both the
characteristic and the
continuum x-rays cause
(secondary) fluorescence of
the specimen, and the
resulting x-rays are focused
using collimators in either
WDS (crystal + counter) or
EDS (solid state detector)
mode .
Fig 4-1 Williams
A Currently Marketed XRF (WDS version)
This actual
model contains
There are
probably over a
dozen companies
building and
selling XRFs of
various designs.
In fact, two are
here in Madison:
(~Siemens) and
From Bruker-AXS brochure
Sample Prep in XRF
Samples and standards (fine powders) are mixed with
a flux (e.g., a glass disk with ~90% LiBO4 for major
elements, a pressed pellet with ~75% cellulose for
The purpose is to minimize “particle size / microabsorption effects” by producing a more uniform
absorption path for samples made of discrete phases
that may not have been ground down into submicron
Correction of XRF Intensity Data
XRF intensity data (counts) is much simplier to
correct, compared with EPMA data:
• No Z (atomic number) correction
• No F (fluorescence) correction
• Only A (absorption) correction
Calibration curves are developed for each element.
UW XRF Core Scanner
Stephen Meyers has one of these for chemically
mapping sediment cores.
UW XRF Core Scanner
Stephen Meyers has one of these for chemically
mapping sediment cores.
Synchrotron Radiation (SR) - Defined*
Synchrotron = particle (electron, proton, neutron) accelerator.
The particle orbits a track; acceleration is produced by an
alternating electric field that is in synchronism with orbital
SR = electromagnetic radiation (e.g. radio waves, X-rays)
generated within a synchrotron, or through similar natural
process in deep space (e.g. some of strongest celestial radio
sources). Electrons or other charged particles moving in a
strong magnetic field field are forced to spiral around magnetic
lines of forces. If they travel near speed of light, they emit, in
direction of travel, a sharp beam of electromagnetic radiation
polarized normal to the direction of magnetic field. Whether
radiation appears as light or radio waves depends on its
frequency, which is determined by the electrons’ velocity.
* Encyclopedia Britannica, 1974
Synchrotron Setup
From Als-Nielsen and McMorrow
Wigglers or Undulators and X-rays
Shown here is the cone of xrays generated by positrons
moving with near-speed-oflight energy through an
insertion device. The array of
permanent magnets produces a
magnetic field that alternates
up and down along the positron
path, causing the particles to
bend back and forth along the
horizontal plane. At each bend,
the positrons emit synchrotron
radiation in the x-ray part of
the spectrum.
From The Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory, October 1997 brochure
Synchrotron X-ray Diffraction
In x-ray scattering experiments, an xray beam is passed through a sample,
and the intensities and directions of the
scattered x-rays are measured. The
pattern of scattered x-rays is converted
by the computer into information
about the arrangement of atoms in the
From The Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory, October 1997 brochure
Synchrotron X-ray Microscopy
A monochromator and a pinhole are used to select the
coherent, laser-like part of an x-ray beam from an APS
undulator. This beam is then focused to a tiny spot by a
zone plate and directed at a sample being studied. As the
sample is scanned back and forth across the beam spot,
the x-rays transmitted through the sample are
recorded in a computer. The data are then
used to develop an image
showing the structure of the
From The Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory, October 1997 brochure
Synchrotron X-ray Spectroscopy
A beam of x-rays passes through a
sample and a measurement is made
of the degree to which x-rays of
different energies are absorbed by
the sample. One type of x-ray
spectroscopy is called extended xray absorption fine structure,
EXAFS. In EXAFS spectra, weak
oscillations indicate the effect of
scattering from neighboring atoms
by an electron ejected from the atom
that absorbs an x-ray. This involves
electron scattering effects, rather
than the x-ray scattering effects
described in the previous slide.
The weak oscillations in
EXAFS spectra can be
analyzed by computer models
to infer the relative locations
of atoms in the structure.
Advances with X-ray source brightness
with time
From Als-Nielsen and McMorrow
UW-Madison Synchrotron
Radiation Center (Stoughton)
In 1965 construction began on
the 240 MeV electron storage ring
Tantalus “for advanced accelerator
concepts” tests. But before its
completion in 1968, interest in
synchrotron radiation research
soared, and changes were made to
accommodate SR. And it then
became dedicated to SR, and here
many breakthroughs were made,
e.g., the superiority of the electron
storage ring as a source of SR was
first shown. In 1977, SRC began
construction on a new and much
larger SR source, Aladdin (1 GeV
storage ring). The SRC storage ring beamlines are optimal for ultrahigh
vacuum ultraviolet (vuv) and soft x-ray (sxr) research.
UW-Madison SRC
Aladdin was constructed with 36 beam
ports, and 4 long straight sections for
insertion devices like undulators and
wigglers. There are 26 beamlines in
operation and 5 under development*.
The SRC serves the requirements for
many investigations, including:
• high resolution optical absorption spectroscopy
of solids and gases
• high resolution reflectance spectroscopy of
• photoinduced luminescence in solids and gases
• photoelectron diffraction
• photoabsorption, dissociation and ionization
cross section measurements
• x-ray lithography
• chemisorption and physisorption studies
• intrared spectroscopy and
microscopy (FT-IR)
• modulation spectroscopy
* 1996 literature quote.
• x-ray microscopy
Resources for XRF and Synchrotron
Introduction to X-Ray Spectrometry by K. L. Williams,
1987, Allen & Unwin (covers both XRF and EPMA)
X-Rays, Electrons, and Analytical Chemistry by
Liebhafsky, Pfeiffer, Winslow and Zemany, 1972, Wiley
(title says it all)
Elements of Modern X-Ray Physics by Als-Nielsen and
McMorrow, 2001, Wiley
Synchrotron powder diffraction by L.W. Finger, in
Modern Powder Diffraction (Bish and Post, eds)
Reviews in Mineralogy Vol 20, 1989, Min. Soc. Am.