X-ray Fluorescence

The XRF Facility houses an Panalytical Axios XRF spectrometer and is set up to analyse a wide range of major and trace elements in prepared solid materials. Routine analysis of eleven major elements, Fe, Mn, Ti, Ca, K, S, P, Si, Al, Mg and Na (with Ni and Cr when Ni and Cr concentrations exceed 2000 ppm or 0.2 %) are determined using fused disks prepared with lithium borate flux.

Trace element concentrations are measured on pressed powder briquettes and intensity data are corrected for mass absorption/enhancement and spectral intererences. International rock standards are used for calibration.

South Africa boasts the largest number of X-ray fluorescence instruments in the world.  These instruments are used heavily in the characterization of ores and the industrial production of steel and cement, among other applications.  The Department of Geological Sciences at UCT has been at the forefront of  X-ray fluorescence technique development since its introduction the early 1960s.  The Department was involved in the XRF analysis of lunar samples returned by the U.S. Apollo missions in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the only laboratory outside of North America and Europe to do so.  Emeritus Professors James Willis and David Reid remain involved with the XRF facility at UCT and Prof. Willis directs a short-course, sponsored by Panalytical, held every January in the Department.


Panalytical Axios wavelength-dispersive XRF spectrometer with sample-changer (56 sample capacity) and a rhodium end-window X-ray tube . A Claisse Fluxer is available to aid in the preparation of fusion disks. A hydraulic cold press and die is used for preparation of powder briquettes. Sample preparation is done using a custom-built hydraulic splitter, Sturtevant laboratory jaw-crusher and sample powdering is done using a Seibtechnik swing mill with carbon steel cassettes of various sizes.