A review of the handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer as a tool for field geologic investigations on Earth and in planetary surface exploration

Kelsey E. Young, Cynthia A. Evans, Kip Hodges, Jacob E. Bleacher, Trevor G. Graff

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

44 Scopus citations

Abstract

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy is a well-established and commonly used technique in obtaining diagnostic compositional data on geological samples. Recently, developments in X-ray tube and detector technologies have resulted in miniaturized, field-portable instruments that enable new applications both in and out of standard laboratory settings. These applications, however, have not been extensively applied to geologic field campaigns. This study investigates the feasibility of using developing handheld XRF (hXRF) technology to enhance terrestrial field geology, with potential applications in planetary surface exploration missions. We demonstrate that the hXRF is quite stable, providing reliable and accurate data continuously over a several year period. Additionally, sample preparation is proved to have a marked effect on the strategy for collecting and assimilating hXRF data. While the hXRF is capable of obtaining data that are comparable to laboratory XRF analysis for several geologically-important elements (such as Si, Ca, Ti, and K), the instrument is unable to detect other elements (such as Mg and Na) reliably. While this limits the use of the hXRF, especially when compared to laboratory XRF techniques, the hXRF is still capable of providing the field user with significantly improved contextual awareness of a field site, and more work is needed to fully evaluate the potential of this instrument in more complex geologic environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-87
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Volume72
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

Keywords

  • Field portable technology
  • Field spectroscopy
  • Handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (hXRF)
  • In situ field geologic instrument
  • In situ geochemistry
  • Planetary field geology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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