X-ray Tubes: a critical component to x-ray fluorescence

The x-ray tube is the heart 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 (or the book keepers) cringe as you realize that the x-ray tube is usually the most expensive component of an XRF analyzer – depending on the instrument and the size of the x-ray tube, replacing one can cost between $5,000 to $15,000 dollars.

Xray Fluorescence ComponentsObviously, the more an instrument is used, the faster the x-ray tube will fail – but other factors can affect the tube lifetime and are listed below.  While all of these factors cannot be completely avoided, understanding them can help you maximize the life of this critical component.

What Factors Influence the Life of an X-Ray Tube?
Complex applications; performing multi-layer applications (ie ENIPIG, ENIG) will put more stress on a tube than basic single-layer applications

Using a small collimator, such as 2mil.  If it is appropriate for your application, use an 8 or 12 mil x-ray beam.  If smaller spot sizes are critical, then you may want to consider a Micro-XRF analyzer with poly-capillary optics.

Using a higher voltage than necessary; most analyzers automatically set this value in the software based on the known ionization energies of the application.  However, a few XRF models allow for manual input.

Inadequate cooling of the x-ray tube; this relates to the air intake fan being plugged with dust and debris or the fan being blocked to allow for adequate air intake.  Reviewing air intake vents and fans is part of the annual preventative maintenance service provided by Eastern Applied but the overall environment and location of your XRF Analyzer is important.

X-Ray tube size; generally, smaller sized tubes will reach their end of life faster than a larger tube.  The size of the tube is directly related to the type of analyzer and applications, but perhaps is something to take into consideration when reviewing your XRF analyzer options.

Contact the Eastern Applied Research support staff 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…offered by Eastern Applied Research, these services will provide preventative maintenance and technicians will discuss factors like the ones noted above.

Learn More: The Cost of Neglect; indicators of x-ray tube issues

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