The x-ray tube is the hear and soul of any x-ray fluorescence analyzer. Depending on a number of factors, most x-ray tubes will have a life expectancy between 4 to 6 years or 10,000 to 30,000 hours of use. Whether shorter or longer than the typical life span, it is inevitable that one day you will walk up to the instrument to run your samples and realize that the life expectancy of the tube has been reached and it is time for replacement. This realization will undoubtedly make you cringe as you realize that the x-ray tube is usually the most expensive part of an XRF analyzer to replace. Depending on the instrument and the size of the x-ray tube, replacing one can cost between $5,000 to $15,000 dollars.
Obviously, the more an instrument is used, the faster the x-ray tube will wear – but other factors can affect the tube lifetime and are listed below. While all of these factors cannot be completely avoided, it can help you understand the expected lifetime of the heart and soul of your XRF analyzer: the x-ray tube.
What Factors Into The X-ray Tubes Life?
- Performing multilayer analysis, such as Au/Ni/Cu
- Using a small collimator, such as 2 mil. If it is appropriate for your application, use an 8 or 12 mil x-ray beam
- Using a higher voltage than necessary for analysis. Most instruments automatically set this value in the software based on the known ionization energies of the applicatio; however, a few instruments allow for manual input.
- Inadequate cooling of the x-ray tube related to the air intake fan being plugged with dust and debris or the fan being blocked to receive adequate air intake. Ensure that the air intake vent is free of dust and has access to ample air intake (environment and location of your XRF is important).
- Smaller sized x-ray tubes generally reach their end of life faster than a larger tube. The size of the tube is directly related to the type of instrument, but perhaps is something to take into consideration when purchasing a new XRF analyzer.
The Eastern Applied Research support staff is available to discuss any questions regarding the operation of your instrument and adjustments that may extend the life of the x-ray tube and other major components. Also, try to have a yearly certification/review service performed on your system…these are performed by Eastern Applied technicians, they will provide preventative maintenance and discuss factors like the ones noted above.