Exploring for minerals is expensive and those in the industry look to drilling reports to see if mining in a particular area is worth the expense. Mining companies usually do some drilling of rock and then sample the core of the rock during their exploration phase. Special drills are used to extract cylindrical pieces of subsurface material and then bring the material to the surface for examination.
On-site testing labs are often impractical due to environmental factors, weather, and logistics, including the high cost of transporting heavy samples for lab testing, so mining companies often utilize portable XRF mining instruments to pre-screen laboratory samples, identify drill targets quickly, reduce re-mobilization costs, and get an accurate drill report to the capital markets as fast as possible.
If you do a Google search on mining drill reports, you may see a list of questions related to Niton and XRF. Here are the top questions, answers and links to more information.
What is a Niton gun?
Some of the analyzers used to identify elements are sometimes referred to in the field as “Niton guns” because of the shape of the instrument and the ‘point-and-shoot’ technology. “Niton guns” (though we don’t like to use the word gun) are portable XRF instruments offered by Thermo Fisher Scientific under the brand name ‘Niton.”
These analyzers allow real-time assay analysis, and can be used in hard rock mining, mine mapping, ore grade control, environmental compliance, and the exploration and mining of a wide variety of base metals, precious metals, rare earth elements, mineral fuels, industrial minerals, and gas-bearing strata samples. (Note that these handheld analyzers are used in other applications as well, including manufacturing, scrap metal recycling, precious metals analysis, positive material identification in the petro-chemical industry, and others.) These analyzers are especially helpful in:
- Production and mineral processing: Fast, laboratory-grade sample analysis data for process control, quality assurance and other operational decisions.
- Mine site analysis and extraction: Send data to quarry laboratory and operations management personnel for easy collaboration and informed decisions.
- Industrial minerals evaluation: XRF analyzers can be used for in-quarry exploration and evaluating the composition of raw materials such as phosphate, potash, gypsum and limestone for industrial use.
- Oil & gas exploration: XRF analyzers are valuable for upstream exploration and production, offering rapid, onsite chemical analysis of rocks, cuttings, and cores that can be used for identifying formations and determining mineral composition of the rock. Users can infer mineralogical properties favorable to oil and gas production from data collected in real time.
How does a Niton gun work?
The working principle of a portable XRF analyzer is based on these three steps (see image below):
- A sample is irradiated with high energy X-rays from a controlled X-ray tube. The energy causes inner-shell electrons to be ejected. Outer-shell electrons fill the vacancies and fluorescent x-rays are emitted.
- The fluorescent x-rays enter the detector and send electronic pulses to the preamp. The preamp amplifies the signals and sends them to the Digital Signal Processor (DSP) to collect and digitize the x-ray events into channels of energy. Next, the “counts” for each channel (spectral data) is then sent to the main CPU for processing.
- Using algorithms, the central processing unit (CPU) analyzes the spectral data and determines the concentration of each element present. Composition data and identified alloy grade are displayed in real time and stored via memory for later recall or download to an external PC.
What is XRF technique?
XRF is an acronym for X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy. XRF is a non-destructive analytical technique used to determine the elemental composition of materials. Handheld XRF analyzers work by measuring the fluorescent (or secondary) X-rays emitted from a sample when excited by a primary X-ray source. Each of the elements present in a sample produces a set of characteristic fluorescent X-rays, or “unique fingerprints”. These “fingerprints” are distinct for each element, making handheld XRF analysis an excellent tool for quantitative and qualitative measurements.
We have created a free easy-to-understand ebook that explains the technology. Download the Free XRF eBook: “XRF Technology for Non-Scientists“
What can XRF detect?
Handheld XRF analyzers can identify elements, which are chemically pure substances composed of atoms. Elements are the fundamental materials of which all matter is composed. The elements are arranged in increasing order of their atomic weight (the number of protons in the nucleus of an atom) on the well-known periodic table that was originally created in 1869 by Dmitry I. Mendeleev.
Are XRF analyzers safe?
The analyzer emits a directed radiation beam when the tube is energized (tube-based instrument) or when the shutter is open (isotope-based instrument). Reasonable effort should be made to maintain exposures to radiation as far below dose limits as is practical. This is known as the ALARA (As Low as Reasonably Achievable) principle. For any given source of radiation, three factors will help minimize your radiation exposure: time, distance, and shielding.
While the radiation emitted from a portable XRF analyzer is similar to the exposure received in a normal medical or dental X-ray, care must be taken to always point a handheld XRF analyzer directly at the sample and never at a person or a body part.