Failure analysis using the Rigaku ZSX Primus wavelength-dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometer and SQX standardless analysis

Failure analysis can involve many analytical techniques to determine the cause for failure. WDXRF has been proven to be a very useful method to aid in failure analysis since in many cases elemental composition can be central to determining the failure mode. With today's modern semi-quantitative methods, which operate without needing elemental standards, the analysis can be performed quickly and easily.

As an example we analyzed a sediment deposited in a water chiller thought to be important for the potential failure of an X-ray instrument in our own laboratory. In this case only two grams of powdered sample was recovered for analysis. The sample was prepared by drying and placing it into a plastic sample cell with Prolene film as the surface analyzing window, as seen in Figure 1.

sample was prepared by drying and placing it into a plastic sample cell with Prolene film

Figure 1

The sample was then loaded on Rigaku's Primus WDXRF system and run in a vacuum atmosphere. The analysis was done using Rigaku's standardless SQX program and EZ scan routine. The window for the EZ Scan setup can be seen in Figure 2 depicting the five questions needed to perform a full semi-quantitative elemental analysis.

sanalysis was done using Rigaku's standardless program

Figure 2

The resulting elemental data from the sediment scan can be seen in Table 1.

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Table 1: Sediment failure analysis

The high elemental concentrations of both copper and zinc indicate a copper waterline degradation to the instrument in question.

As shown in this example, the XRF data can provide clues to determine where a failure has or may take place. This method can be instrumental in maintaining equipment and forecasting problems in a process prior to an actual failure.