The emergence of small spot/mapping capability in wavelength-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (WDXRF) instruments, especially when combined with a standardless routine, has helped many a scientist solve problems once only possible through other, more complex techniques.
Small spot/mapping capability is particularly useful in mining exploration. Mapping a geological sample allows you to define and locate grain boundaries and crystalline structures that are not visible to the naked eye, and construct detailed composite maps of elemental distribution within a sample. These 2D images can be viewed as individual element distributions or overlaid to give a more comprehensive correlation of the elements as a group. The 3D images are single element display and can be rotated for a full 360 degree visualization or even a birds-eye view. While most maps are collected as intensity only images, empirical calibrations can also be used to fully quantify the result.
Here are some resources that may help you get a better understanding:
For a more detailed explanation of small spot analysis, mapping, and standardless analysis, read the Analyzing Metals blog post, Small Spot Analysis, Mapping, and Standardless Analysis Explained.
View the recorded webinar, Advanced XRF Applications in Geochemistry and Mining Analysis to discover how WDXRF can be used with standardless analysis and fully calibrated methods, along with small spot and mapping, to create a complete profile of the mineralogy of geochemical and mining samples.
Read WDXRF as an Investigative and Analytical Tool Using Small Spot/Mapping and Thermo Scientific UniQuant to see examples of differences among elemental segregations throughout the rock body obtained through mapping and small spot analysis using a WDXRF instrument.
Although small spot capabilities can be vital to geochemical analysis at mine sites, we don’t recommend it for mapping out the Irish countryside this St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, those tiny elves known in Irish folklore as leprechauns may be hiding a pot of gold out there, but they are said to be about 2-3 feet tall – which is quite big for small spot analysis — and tend to play mean pranks on humans. So keep your analysis and mapping to investigating those minute gold-colored particles in your mining sample and hope it is your lucky day.