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Handheld mineral analyzer employs XRD and XRF

LEICESTER, England – Efforts are under way to develop a handheld mineral analyzer for mining applications – the first of its kind.

Allowing for rapid mineral identification and quantification in the field through a combination of x-ray diffraction (XRD) and x-ray fluorescence (XRF), the instrument will be created through a collaborative project between the University of Leicester’s Space Research Center (SRC) and Bruker Elemental.

The addition of XRD capability is an improvement upon current XRF instruments, which sell thousands of units globally each year. The instrument is expected to weigh 1.5 kg and be able to analyze mining samples for mineral content within one to two minutes. There is no need for sample preparation – an unprecedented feature of XRD equipment.


A rock specimen mounted for analysis. Photo courtesy of Dr. Graeme M. Hansford.


“It’s very fulfilling for me to see the development of this novel XRD technique from initial conception through theoretical calculations and modeling to experimental demonstration,” said Dr. Graeme Hansford of the SRC, project leader. “The next step is to develop the commercial potential, and I’m very excited to be working with Bruker Elemental on the development of a handheld instrument.”

Hansford originally conceived of the XRD technique in early 2010 when trying to figure out how to apply the technology in space without sample preparation.

“In many cases, this system will provide information on the crystallography of the sample in addition to the elemental analysis,” said Alexander Seyfarth, senior product manager at Bruker Elemental.

Next, the project will focus on developing and testing the methodology using samples that are representative of real-world problems encountered in mining, such as determining the relative amounts of iron oxide materials in ore samples. The SRC and Bruker will develop a handheld prototype to demonstrate the technology’s efficiency in the field.


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