Elemental and structural academy

Find useful resources on the key elemental and structural analysis techniques optical emission spectrometry (OES), X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and X-ray diffraction (XRD). Find fundamental information about the basic operating principles of these technologies alongside more advanced tutorials on how they apply to specific applications. This page will be updated regularly, so come back for future updates on all things OES, XRF, and XRD.

What you'll find in each section of the academy:


Learn more about the fundamentals of OES, XRF, and XRD from the basics to more advanced application topics. Here you will find introductions to the underlying principles of each technique, with quick guide posters and useful videos to enrich your understanding of cutting-edge elemental and structural analysis.

Instrument solutions

Navigate to our OES, XRF and XRD products page for a comprehensive look at the instruments we have to offer. With a choice of stand-alone, benchtop and portable solutions, our instruments are primed for success in both traditional analytical settings and out in the field. If you would like more information about any of these elemental and structural analysis tools, contact a member of the sales team today.


Understanding the elemental composition and structure of your materials at multiple touchpoints in the workflow process can help you adapt to new challenges unique to your market sector. We offer the products, services and technologies to help you understand your materials, regardless of the application. See applications below, combining techniques to get the most comprehensive results.


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Optical emission spectrometry (OES) relies on the ablation of sample metals by electrical sparks and the subsequent excitation of that ablated material using argon plasma. When excited, this material emits light in the ultraviolet (UV) and visible range, with a spectrum made up of wavelengths characteristic of the elements present in the sample and their concentration. These signals are acquired using either PMTs (photomultiplier tubes) or CCD (charge-coupled device) detectors, enabling the accurate determination of the chemical content of solid metallic samples. 

Powder XRD is one of the most established techniques for identifying and characterizing polycrystalline materials with respect to their crystallography, polymorphic structures, phases and crystallinity changes. While respecting Bragg’s law, many geometries exist, the most common is the Bragg-Brentano mode.  In contrast to this latter, it is also possible to obtain a real-time full pattern in a few seconds thanks to a geometry using a Thermo Scientific Position Sensitive Detector (PSD) detector, the same one that equips the models of our Thermo Scientific ARL EQUINOX range.

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis uses X-rays as an excitation source which can cause samples to emit secondary X-rays in the form of fluorescence. These excitation X-rays are usually generated using an X-ray tube via electrical currents. When samples are irradiated by primary X-rays, each element present emits unique, characteristic fluorescent signals, which combine to make up an elemental fingerprint. Interpreting this X-ray energy spectrum provides quantitative and qualitative insights into sample composition, particularly metallic samples and earthen minerals.

Automation and Software for XRF and OES

With fully-independent sample preparation and handling, automated systems can improve process throughput and repeatability for an appreciable reduction in operating costs and significant increase in productivity.

Learn about automation for XRF and OES ›

We developed a suite of analysis software solutions for OES and XRF instrumentation, helping our customers perform the highest-quality analysis of their samples in the shortest possible time-frames. 

Learn more about software for XRF and OES ›


Elemental and Structural Analysis Applications

The needs of clinical and diagnostics researchers, life scientists, process engineers, and a limitless range of professionals across industrial and manufacturing spaces are constantly changing. Understanding the elemental composition and structure of your materials at multiple touchpoints in the workflow process can help you adapt to new challenges unique to your market sector. We offer the products, services and technologies to help you understand your materials, regardless of the application.

We have curated an unmatched selection of products based on tried-and-tested analytical technologies including OES and XRF spectrometry, and XRD. With a choice of stand-alone, benchtop and portable solutions, our technologies are geared towards improving your process efficiency and productivity while never compromising the results. If you have any specific queries about how these elemental and structural analysis solutions could be leveraged in your field, contact us.

Here you will find resources relating to specific applications of OES, XRF and XRD technologies. Follow the links to find more educational content tailored specifically to these individual applications.


3D printing of metals
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Additive Manufacturing (AM; 3D printing of metals) is a quickly evolving new manufacturing technique which enables manufacturers to produce parts and components with complex structures conveniently by building them layer by layer from metal powder beds or even by using hybrid metal-polymer printing techniques.

The technique can be applied to several types of metal alloys like Ti64, AlSi10Mg or stainless steels. These materials all have in common a set of QA/QC procedures that are required to control the parameters of the printing process and therefore the quality of the result. This holds not only in industrial production and R&D activities but also in academic research.

One of the most frequently used methods to assess the microstructure of metal alloys is X-ray diffraction (XRD). XRD makes it possible to directly measure crystallographic structures of related components and quantify their content.

For more detailed information on how X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry and XRD can be leveraged in the 3D printing/additive manufacturing process, browse our associated resources below:

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Drug analysis plays a key role in modern forensic science. With the emerging availability and increased consumption of certain drugs, as well as development of new substances, it is important to be able to use forensic methods to trace the drugs’ origins. XRD can help in the forensic determination of the drugs’ source through analysis of the materials’ type, form, and composition.

Explosives analysis in forensic science

Additionally, the analysis of explosives is an important part of forensic science. In addition to forensic work performed within law enforcement agencies, there is a growing demand from military bodies and contractors for mobile labs in “hot zones” due to the extensive threat of IEDs (improvised explosive devices). Approximately 60% of forensic cases involve intact explosive devices like IEDs, grenades or illegal fireworks. Explosive materials often contain distinct signatures due to factors like side phases formed during synthesis, storage, or mixing of materials. An important part of forensic explosives investigations is ascertaining the origin of the explosive as well as being able to cluster or group together similar samples based on such identifying factors. Additionally, inspection of remnants from explosions, like parts of casings, allow investigators to draw conclusions about the type of explosive device.

If you would like to learn more about the use of XRD in forensics, explore our resources below:

XRD analysis is a crucial step in the analytical workflow carried out by forensic labs for the investigation of powder and bulk samples, not only for drug-related samples and explosives but also for various other samples like textiles or soils. XRD analyses can confirm findings from complementary analytical techniques like mass spectrometry. They can also provide additional information about the crystalline structure of a compound which allows conclusions like phase quantities from even complex mixtures.

Metal and Alloy Manufacturing

Learn more about how our OES, XRF, and XRD solutions set the benchmark for chemical analysis of solid samples in metal and alloy manufacturing. The crystalline structure and elemental composition of metals varies from grade-to-grade, corresponding to a wide variety of properties in terms of ductility, strength, weldability, and more. Modern process engineers are increasingly able to guarantee the integrity of end-products through trace and percent-level elemental and structural analysis.

If you would like a more detailed insight into the various applications of our elemental and structural analysis instrumentation in metal and alloy manufacturing, browse the application notes and other resources below:

We can assist at every stage in the metal fabrication process, from the initial screening of incoming raw materials to end-product validation and quality control. Our OES and XRF solutions are also routinely employed in laboratory settings to test the composition and structure of emerging materials.

ARL SMS-2300 Automated Metals Analyzer for OES or XRF

ARL QuantoShelter Automated Metals Analyzer


OES spectrometry is ubiquitous in the world of metals and alloys, particularly for elemental and inclusion analysis in steel making and for quality control of finished goods (bars, plates, sheets, etc.). Our OES solutions have set the benchmark for elemental analysis of solid metal samples for over 85 years, providing turnkey analytical solutions for demanding industrial processes.

Our ARL iSpark OES Spectrometers are renowned for their experience and innovation in steel manufacturing. If you would like to learn more about their operating principles, watch the video.


XRF instrumentation is also used pervasively throughout the metal fabrication production cycle. With absolute precision from percentage to trace level elemental concentration, both handheld and bulk XRF solutions can be used to prevent out-of-specification metals and alloys by verifying their composition at multiple points in the production process.

If you would like to learn more about how OES and XRF are used in metal production processes, take a look at our iron and steel manufacturing process map.

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Cement manufacturing

Find more information about how XRF is used to perform essential screening of incoming raw materials for cement making processes. Many cement kilns must be continuously monitored to ascertain the minute-by-minute composition of blends, thus preventing process upsets and guaranteeing a suitable end-product. There is also an increasing need for conditioning and validating alternative fuels (petcoke, paper waste, used oils, etc.) that are intended for improving the sustainable credentials of cement manufacturing at large.

For more information on the specific applications of XRF instrumentation in the cement manufacturing industry, browse a selection of our application notes:

XRF is a well-suited elemental analysis technology for qualifying an extremely broad range of materials prior to incineration in a cement kiln. This is pivotal in the validation of potential alternative fuels by screening for undesirable elements (heavy, toxic, etc.). If you are interested in learning about some of the leading alternative fuels that are helping to make cement manufacturing a greener and cleaner process, see our flyer on  Making Cement Greener and Cleaner. Learn more about our products that are best suited for  alternative fuels analysis.

For a broader scope of how XRF instrumentation is used in the cement manufacturing production cycle, take a look at our process map,    Infographic – Cement Production Process.


Delivering new, sustainable energy supplies for a growing global population is critical in building a safe and secure future. Elemental and structural analysis with our XRF and XRD solutions can help researchers develop a new generation of renewables such as synthesized biofuels, and to improve the green credentials of existing energy sources via carbon emission reduction and improving carbon sequestration. In addition, our analytical instrumentation is central to research and development (R&D) of high-performance materials for next-generation electronics and energy storage devices.

If you would like to learn more about how our XRF and XRD instrumentation is helping drive modern industries towards a brighter future, explore a selection of application notes below:


Ensuring a safer environment today for future generations is a mandate that no industry can continue to ignore. Companies must adapt to combat environmental threats around the world and to reduce their contributions to man-made climate change. We are committed to building a greener tomorrow with a suite of future-proof elemental analysis solutions based on high-resolution XRF instrumentation.

Energy-dispersive XRF (EDXRF) and wavelength-dispersive XRF (WDXRF) are perfectly suited for helping process engineers in various markets to improve their sustainability credentials. EDXRF instruments with large sample changers routinely assist in the screening of air samples following toxic spills or leaks to test for airborne toxic metals at extremely low levels of concentration. It can similarly be used to evaluate the environmental impact of waste products intended for reuse. For busy environmental and industrial laboratories that need greater XRF performance, wavelength-dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometer is preferred.

If you would like a more detailed insight into the use of EDXRF and WDXRF in environmental monitoring, browse our selection of application notes below:

Geology, Mining and Minerals

Here you will find resources dedicated to the elemental and structural analysis of geological and mineral samples, both in the field and in laboratory settings using XRF and XRD instrumentation. Mining and exploration are central to practically every modern industry worldwide, extracting the raw materials that fuel continued innovation in a limitless range of manufacturing sectors, from pharmaceuticals to semiconductors.

If you would like to learn more about how each of these technologies is applied in minerals analysis, join our webinar, Advanced Applications for Geochemical and Mining Analysis.

We can help you understand the value of your mineralogical samples, from quantifying the economically important and undesirable compounds with XRF to interrogating their phase composition using XRD. For more information on how ultra-precision elemental and structural analysis can help you enhance the value of your mineral extraction operations, see this flyer:  Enhancing Productivity and Value of Mineral Sources

With a choice of benchtop and floor-standing solutions available, XRF and XRD instrumentation are routinely employed in challenging environments to interrogate a wide range of elements and compounds at correspondingly wide concentration ranges, and in various sample matrices. To get an idea of the outstanding versatility of our product range, we have gathered together a selection of application notes relevant to mineral analysis below:

Glass and ceramics

Glass and ceramics are challenging materials to analyze due to their uniquely variable compositions and material structures. In its simplest format, glass is composed of pure fused silica (SiO2) which adopts a random non-crystalline structure. Yet the costs and intensiveness of producing fused silica often mandate the use of alternative oxides such as alumina (Al2O3) or magnesia (MgO), and various additives like soda flux and lime stabilizers. This not only affects the composition of the material but the crystal structure too.

We provide solutions for helping process engineers in glass and ceramics sectors combine the right components to develop products with outstanding end-use properties. Our benchtop XRF solutions, particularly wavelength-dispersive XRF (WDXRF), can be used to guarantee that each individual ingredient is accounted for with exactness in terms of elemental percentage. XRD instrumentation is also routinely used to screen incoming materials for the ceramics industry. Each of these technologies is essential in ongoing process control and product development.

If you would like to learn more about how XRF solutions have assisted experts in the glass and ceramics manufacturing space, browse the literature below:


Oil and gas is one of the largest industries worldwide, spanning a broad range of processes and activities (exploration, extraction, refining, transportation, etc.) and generating billions of dollars per annum. Extremely large volumes of fuel oil and gasoline are generated by petroleum refineries every single year. This relies on the conversion of crudes extracted from the earth’s crust. Crude oils can contain various undesirable elements such as sulfur, which can be severely detrimental if allowed to propagate through to the end-product. XRF is the industry-standard solution for screening crudes and refined oils to guarantee optimal product quality and regulatory compliance.

Regulators worldwide are increasing restrictions on sulfur content in fuels and oils, decreasing the maximum permissible limits to 10 parts per million (ppm). Low-level elemental analysis is subsequently a matter of regulatory necessity, alongside its proven reliability in providing insights into the validity of novel formulations based on distinct crudes and oil additives. If you would like to learn more about the use of XRF in the petroleum industry, explore our selection of application notes:


Pharmaceutical researchers and manufacturers must be able to guarantee the safety and efficacy of their formulations through pervasive structural analysis at multiple points in the research and development (R&D) cycle. XRD is the tried-and-tested solution on crystalline sample for the challenges of pharmaceutical forensics, quality assurance and process control, guaranteeing precision in crystallinity screening, percentage crystallinity and the efficacy of solid dosage forms (polymorphism).

Ensuring that drugs convey desired pharmacological effects requires an active understanding of the bioavailability and stability of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and relevant excipients. NEW! With the addition of software that includes Title 21 CFR Part 11 compliant features, regulated labs can now meet FDA regulations while obtaining accurate information in XRD with the ARL EQUINOX diffractometer series. For more information on achieving effective and highly stable dosage form pharmaceuticals and how compliance with 21CFR Part 11 FDA regulation is achieved, watch these webinars:

Learn more about the primary applications and benefits of XRD structural analysis in the pharma industry, from salt screening to counterfeit detection, by reading our flyer on the subject,  Security and Compliance in Pharma with XRD.

Application notes:

Polymers and Plastics

Polymers and plastics are among the most ubiquitous materials found in consumer and industrial products today, owing to their outstanding adaptability with regards to their underlying physical and chemical properties. Elemental and structural analysis via XRF spectrometry and XRD has consequently become an integral part of the quality control and assurance (QA/QC) process for delivering safe and compliant polymeric materials tailored for specific end-user environments.

If you would like to learn more about the elemental and structural analysis of polymers, particularly with respect to rheology and extrusion, follow the link to our webinar, Polymer Process and Analysis Webinar Series.

Plastics are manufactured using a complex array of raw materials and additives. Typical additives include accelerants, anti-degradiants, cross-linkers, fillers, plasticizers, and more – each of which is critical in yielding the desired end-product. XRF analysis is an essential component in the plastics manufacturing chain, providing insights into additive concentration at the parts-per-million (ppm) range, while XRD offers vital structural information (polymorphism, crystallinity, etc.) which may be indicative of undesirable properties.

If you would like to learn more about how the elemental composition and structure of polymers affects their properties, and how XRF and XRD can be used to ensure high-quality and safe products, see our flyer on  Ensuring Quality and Safety of Polymers.

For more detailed information on how XRF spectrometry and XRD can be leveraged in the polymer and plastics manufacturing process, browse our associated application notes in the links below:


Automated XRF and OES Systems

Automation of elemental and structural analysis is key to elevating research and development (R&D) or product manufacturing to a higher value state. With fully-independent sample preparation and handling, automated systems can improve process throughput and repeatability for an appreciable reduction in operating costs and significant increase in productivity. We furnish professionals in a wide range of fields with automatic analysis solutions that help them meet stricter product specifications without raising their overhead costs.

We understand that neither production line nor research facility faces the same challenges, which is why all our automation solutions are customized as per client specifications. Learn more information about the base automation systems that we offer or check the full list of automated laboratory spectrometers.


Analytical Software for XRF and OES

Analytical software solutions lay the framework for total elemental and structural analysis of an extremely wide range of sample types, improving accuracy and reliability for comprehensive improvements to both efficiency and productivity. We developed a suite of analysis software solutions for OES and XRF instrumentation, helping our customers perform the highest-quality analysis of their samples in the shortest possible time-frames.

Learn more about the analytical software packages: