Analyzing Converters: Understanding the Difference Between XRF Benchtop and XRF Gun Techniques

Analyzing Converters

While an accurate analysis of catalytic converters is best done in a laboratory, there are other, more portable, options. The XRF gun is a handheld device that can determine if platinum group metals (PGMs) are present in converters and identify approximately their concentrations..

However, compared to its benchtop counterpart, the XRF gun doesn’t deliver an accurate reading of your material. To find out why that is, we asked our laboratory manager, Alex Benoit, to peel back the layers and explain why the two instruments offer very different results. Check out our video below or keep reading.

What is XRF Benchtop and Why do Processors Use It?

The XRF benchtop device is an instrument that measures the amount of platinum, palladium, and rhodium in your converters. Using an x-ray beam that penetrates the sample, this device analyzes the fluorescence generated as atoms react with the x-rays. In order to maximize the accuracy of assay results, processors must have trained staff who can calibrate and manage the parameters of the device.

The XRF benchtop is a reliable machine that delivers a rather quick analysis and provides accurate results. Processors trust this machine because of its efficiency and its cost-effectiveness.

The XRF gun, however, offers a more user-friendly alternative that can be operated by individuals across various settings. Let’s dive further into these distinctions.

What is an XRF Gun and Should You Use It to Analyze Converters?

An XRF gun is a handheld device that detects platinum, palladium, and rhodium loadings in catalyst material and individual converter units. Processors and recyclers alike use this instrument because it’s easy to operate. Simply point the device at a converter or some ceramic powder, and you’ll get the results.

However, when pointing the gun at a converter unit, you shouldn’t point it at the openings of the pipe. That’s because the ceramic is 5 – 10 inches deep in the converter shell, which means the x-ray beam will have to travel too far and won’t capture any data. A better approach is to aim the device towards the middle of the unit. It’s important to remember that the x-ray beam only covers a surface of a few micrometers, providing results that are merely approximations, rather than precise scientific readings.

On the other hand, when assessing a bag of powdered catalyst material, the XRF gun can yield better results. But it’s important to remember that these results are still approximations and don’t reach the level of precision achieved by XRF benchtop devices.

Despite its limitations, there are upsides to using an XRF gun. Its simplicity, versatility, and swift analysis make it a valuable consultative tool. Although our expert Alex insists that its accuracy falls short compared to XRF benchtop devices.

Sample Preparation is the Key to a Reliable Analysis

Alex also stresses the importance of proper sample preparation. Accurate results are achieved when the sample is homogeneous, with uniform particle sizes throughout. The XRF benchtop machine relies on finely crushed and well-mingled powder samples obtained from your material. With the XRF gun, however, the analysis is performed on a converter unit or on top of powdered material, resulting in less reliable readings.

At PMR, we adhere to a rigorous protocol that includes cutting, crushing, and blending your material into a fine, homogeneous powder. Multiple samples undergo analysis using both XRF benchtop and ICP methods to maximize assay accuracy. That’s because we know that your hedging and payment opportunities depend on it, and we make every effort to ensure the reliability of your results.

For more information, visit our Resource Center.

Published: September 19, 2023
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