Know “Why” & “How” ICP-OES Wavelength Calibration is needed and done

ICP-OES is one of the the analyzing technique across a number of industries, and when configured correctly, today’s instruments yield detection limits of 1 to 10 ppb for the majority of elements. Although a powerful elemental analysis technique, it is in fact a simple comparator, incapable of making absolute measurements.

Crystals_cropped_iStock-661239146 (4)

Fundamentally, qualitative identification of each element is determined by the presence or absence of emission lines and quantification is determined using the emission intensity. Unfortunately, optical spectra are very complex and variations in optical configurations mean that every ICP-OES instrument has a unique correlation between emission wavelengths and where they are positioned on the instrument’s detection system. Accurate indexing of each wavelength is critical for obtaining accurate data.

Wavelength calibration is the process used to “teach” the instrument exactly which position of its detection system corresponds to each emission wavelength. Wavelength calibration in ICP-OES is typically achieved by aspirating a multi-element solution which will produce elemental emission for each element contained in the solution.  This multi-element solution should be run regularly to adjust for daily variations which inevitably can occur in the optical chamber of the ICP. The specific elements contained in the solutions are chosen to produce relatively simple spectra while also covering the relevant wavelength range of the instrument. All modern ICP-OES instruments incorporate an automated wavelength calibration routine. The instrument operator simply loads the wavelength calibration solution designed for use with their model instrument and the software does the rest.

Wavelength calibration impacts virtually every aspect of your ICP’s performance, including its sensitivity (detection limits), stability (RSDs), and susceptibility to interferences. Accuracy of the preparation of the wavelength calibration solution is directly tied to the integrity of all of the analysis performed on the calibrated instrument.


As we explored in a previous blog, Three Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Preparing Aqueous Multi-element Standards for AA, ICP, or ICP-MS, there are many opportunities to introduce inaccuracies while preparing multi-element standards. To mitigate that risk, regulations increasingly require that instrument calibrations carry international validity, particularly in industries producing legally defensible data. As a result, labs must use commercially available CRMs prepared by appropriately accredited manufacturers for all wavelength calibration. If you need help tuning your spectrometer, or selecting the appropriate wavelength calibration solution, one of our industry experts can help.

Ask an Expert 

Or if you want to know more about our Aqueous CRMs,

Visit our Aqueous Page

Written by: Courtney Dillon Posten on : ARMI MBH (

Metal Processing Optical Emission Spectrometry (OES)

In Metal Industry, checks during all the production processes are extremely necessary, starting from raw material control and primary material fusion, up to quality verification before shipping the final product.

During all manufacturing phases, forming, molding, die-casting, extrusion, mechanical manufacturing, it is necessary evaluate different chemical-physical parameters in order to give the essential information for production cycle.

Our partner GNR offers advanced solutions to perform different and wide analytical tasks in the metal industry. 

For Metal Processing Optical Emission Spectrometry (OES) using Arc/Spark excitation is the traditional reference technique for fast and accurate  elemental analysis of solid metallic samples.

It is a well proven technology nowadays used in all the metal  industry  sector from production control to R&D, from incoming material inspection to scrap sorting.

GNR offers PMT-based or CMOS-based spectrometers, Bench Top, Floor Stand and Portable systems to provide high uptime and stable performance for enhanced productivity.

To know more about the GNR OES please CLICK HERE


Posted by GNR – Analytical Instrument Groups (

Why are Tuning Solutions One of the Most Used Standards in ICP-MS Labs?

An ICP-MS system will operate and deliver numerical data even if not set up correctly or operating at expected levels. As discussed in a previous blog, Improve your ICP-OES Performance by using an Internal Standard, internal standards can be used to compensate for a variety of factors that degrade analytical performance, however, proper instrument set-up is core to data integrity. As a result, tuning of ICP-MS instruments is considered by most users to be a daily, if not more frequent, activity, and a prerequisite for achieving accurate results. Best practices dictate, and many standard methods require, that a sample sequence begin with an optimization block, during which a tuning solution is used to set-up the instrument.

The tuning process can differ between types of systems and applications, however, the fundamental principle and practices are the same. The array of actions that make up tuning are currently executed with software-driven “autotuning” procedures. Autotuning adjusts the instrument’s lens voltages, flowrates, ICP electronics and quadrupole voltages accordingly to achieve performance specifications developed per the instrument model. Solutions used for tuning (or optimization) of the system are commonly called “tuning” or “tune-solutions” and are typically delivered as low concentration (1 to 10 μg/L) solutions. In nearly every case they will have elements at low mass (<20 amu), mid-mass (89-115 amu) and high-mass (>200 amu) in order to fully optimize and validate the entire mass range of the instrument. It is important that the tune solution not have impurity elements since many of the actions performed involve the measurement of background masses or neighboring masses of the analytes. If an incorrect solution or one with impurities is utilized, it can result in severe de-optimization of the instrument.

Current ICP-MS configurations have a vast range of modes for cell gas, cool plasma, flow injection, etc.; as a result, there is not always a “one size fits all” choice for a tuning solution standard. Check out our high-quality, pre-configured tuning solutions, designed to match instrument manufacturer’s specifications below.

Ask an Expert 

Or if you want to know more about our Aqueous CRMs,

Visit our Aqueous Page


Written by: Courtney Dillon, Posted by: ARMI LGC (

XRD solutions for respirable silica monitoring

In spite of the global economic downturn due to COVID-19, companies within Australia are still continuing to invest in their employees’ health and safety. This is through the investment of Malvern Panalytical’s Aeris compact and powerful X-ray diffractometer for the monitoring of respirable crystalline silica. Companies including service laboratories are leveraging on Malvern Panalytical’s XRD solutions for sensitive, accurate quantification so that they can make timely decisions to limit their employees’ exposure to respirable silica.

The increase in silicosis within Australia has become a widespread concern in the media as well as among health and safety regulators. Silicosis is a serious disease when crystalline silica nanoparticles are inhaled and deposited in the respiratory tract. Respirable silica is present during the mechanical treatment of silica. This could be quarrying, tunneling, brick and tile making, stone cutting, construction and demolition works, foundry work, grit and sandblasting, etc. These cause the nanoparticles of silica to be airborne and inhaled.

Historically, several analytical methods were used for the quantification of respirable silica, including atomic absorption, colorimetry, gravimetry, microscopy, infrared spectroscopy (IR) and X-ray diffraction (XRD). Most of those methods fell out due to low sensitivity. Nowadays, only IR and XRD are utilized for the respirable silica analyses, as the most sensitive methods allowing to comply with existing norms. Both methods have their pros and cons, but it is generally accepted that XRD is more accurate in identifying silica polymorphs. OSHA ID-142, for example, defines XRD as the only accurate technique for the quantification of crystalline silica in various types of industrial dust.

Find out how Malvern Panalytical’s XRD analytical solutions are able to comply with the stringent EPA and ISO norms. Learn about the capabilities of our XRD solutions and importantly why XRD is the technique of choice by regulatory bodies for the quantification of respirable silica.

Written by: Melissa Ho posted by Malvern Panalytical (


This is the second Q&A blog from the series of X-ray diffraction webinars. During this webinar, Dr. Daniel Lee discussed how powder XRD research can be applied to many material types such as battery powders, geological samples, powder metallurgy for 3D printing, catalyst deterioration, respirable silica or pharmaceutical APIs, you can leverage on XRD. To watch the first webinar click here


Q: Why is the angle marked as 2 theta and not as theta?

Because the geometrical reason for X-ray diffraction (XRD) during the measurement, the diffracted beam must be considered from the incident X-ray beam. Please refer to the theory of XRD and Bragg’s law.

Q: What do you mean by boxes. One box is of one element with crystal size and orientation.

The slides were prepared to give you more understanding about XRD theories. So, the boxes in slide 12,13 were unit cell, and the others were grain/crystallite of the sample in slide 13-18.

Q: ­Can there be a detailed discussion on use of XRD in understanding clay minerals? ­

We could plan one if there are many requests.

Q: ­How to determine Fe2+ in any rock sample? ­

Firstly, we need to do a Search/Match to judge what phases (minerals) are present. Then we could start a Rietveld refinement to quantify them, and as a result, divalent iron can be calculated based on chemical composition and wt.%.

Q: ­LOD can be determined using calibration curve­

Yes, it is a spiking method. If there are no standard/reference samples, we can do the math according to the ICH guideline. That uses signal and noise.

Q: ­Is it possible tell about amount of doping % with XRD spectra with and without doping??

You can refer to “Vegard’s law” which describes that peak position shifts as a function of how much dopants were substituted by seeing a peak shifting from the non-doped sample. There is some linear correlation between doping ratio and shifting.

Q: ­In case of metal powders, how do the different particle sizes of particles affect peak intensities? ­

A peak broadening is observed when particle size is close to nano range. And because X-ray penetration depth of the sample can be limited against large metallic particles having a greater X-ray absorption coefficient.

Q: ­Does the u-strain % distinguish between tensile and compressive stress­?

I do not think so. Theoretically, the micro-strain starts from zero. But, if you measure your sample using residual stress method, you can derive + and – value of stress by measuring one (hkl) plane with a various tilt in omega or chi to monitor peak shifting.

Q: ­In CHC plus, there is stated humidity meanwhile TTK 600 was not stated a humidity, what is the different? ­

CHC and MHC+ chambers are designed for controlling humidity and temperature for organics. But, TTK600 does not have any humidity sensor and humidifier in the system, but you can still insert humid gases by connecting hoses and flask, then flow inert gas into the water of flask. It is kind of indirect way.

Q: ­How to differentiate between phases if they happen to have almost same peak positions in PXRD pattern? ­

It sounds like your sample is consisted of two similar structures. Even though those phases are chemically different from each other, they could be identical in crystallographic properties including crystal system, space group and unit cell parameters. This is called isomorphs which is the most difficult job for XRD. Example: Steel304 vs Steel403, LiNiMnO2 vs LiMnCoO2, Fe vs Fe: Co…

Q: ­Can I measure each phase at different layers without destructing sample? I mean I need to know the phase at layer 1 and to know the phase layer 2 and something like that. ­

In Bragg-Brentano geometry, you cannot because the X-ray will penetrate whole layers of the sample if the thickness is below several tenth of micrometres.

So, you need to use a Parallel beam geometry instead. You can fix the incident beam angle (omega) during the measurement around 1~2 degrees, then you can only move detector in 2 theta. The appropriate incident angle to capture a very thin skin layer of your sample is depending on a) incident angle, b) density of sample, c) mass absorption coefficient and d) layer thickness in accordance with Lamber-Beer equation. You can vary the omega angle (fixed value) to get a depth resolved XRD patterns. It is called GI-XRD (Glazing Incidence X-Ray Diffraction).


Q: ­How can we calculate the amorphous area and crystalline area­?

By finding peaks and fitting a profile. HighScore software will make your job easier. Feel free to contact us.

Q: Will you cover quantification of amorphous phase content in this presentation

It could be covered in a separate session in the future. It indeed takes half a day.

Q: ­There is a broad peak for amorphous material. is there any characteristic structural information related to this peak position and width for the relative amorphous material? ­

It is hard to derive structural information from the amorphous material through XRD instrument. By the way, the peak position of the hump is related to the original crystalline phase of that material. So, organic compounds show their peak position at around 5 to 20 degrees while inorganic compounds have 20 to 50. Metallic is far away from them, 35 to >90. If you really want to extract more structural information of your amorphous sample, you can refer to PDF (Pair-Distribution Function) Analysis that can also be done by our XRD equipped with Ag-tube and some specially required parts. Once you measure amorphous or disordered material by PDF technique, you finally get the boding lengths between atoms from the short-range orderings even they are not crystalline.

Q: How do we differentiate between two amorphous phases in the same sample?

If two amorphous phases have a similar chemical composition, then we have no chance to distinguish them due to the humps that appear at the same 2θ position. However, if they are quite different in chemistry, we may see two separated humps at different positions.

Q: How to quantify the amorphous pattern, using HSP software, for example silica?

There are several ways to do that in HighScore software. If you can add a certain amount of known crystalline powder into the sample, we could use an “internal standard method” by using Rietveld algorithm. If adding is not allowed, then we could use an “external standard methods” by measuring 100% crystalline materials with very similar chemical composition as a standard. By doing so, we will get some constant to calibrate it and calculate amorphous contents of the unknown material.


Q: ­How can I distinguish mixed battery material, LCO, NCM, LMO, LNO? I found that most of the peaks of the materials are overlapped­

They are all rhombohedral structure in crystal system, and the space group also same. So, you can distinguish them by seeing peak intensity ratio of (003) and (104) for example. The best way is measuring XRF. Please get more info from us.


Q: ­which software did you tell us to convert the XRD data in image form to XY data form? ­

HighScore Plus from Malvern Panalytical

Q: How to extract data points from additional graphics pane (FWHM micro-strain data points)?

You can use any commercial XRD software like our HighScore software that helps you to extract FWHMs easily.


Q: The outcome of quantitative analysis depends on sample preparation such as consistency of particle size of the calibration set and samples, right?

Yes, right. But those factors can be handled and corrected by software afterwards. More serious issue would be inhomogeneity of the powder sample. So, keeping a homogeneity is key by mixing them well or measuring many samples to get an average.

Q: We have some cases in which we need to do refinement of atomic co-ordinates to obtain good profile fitting and quantification of multiphase mixtures. What are the precautions that we must take in this case?

In case of mixture sample, you need to be careful about the refinement of any atomic coordinates when the peaks are overlapped and/or other factors are influencing the intensity as well. So, do the sample prep and measurement as perfect as possible to get a randomly oriented PXRD pattern. The best way is to use K-alpha1 system and fill your powder into the glass capillary for the Debye-Scherrer geometry in order to ignore preferred orientation effect.

Q: If some doping causes the crystal to shrink by imparting the strain… what will happen to peaks?

If the dopant is smaller than the host ion, the peak will be shifted to the higher angle side, vice versa. Moreover, if the dopant deteriorates the host lattice, the peak widths will be broadened with respect to the influences of the dopant.

Q: ­Suppose I have 2 samples with A-5%B and A-10%B. I did the XRD. Will there be any differences in the peak and their positions? ­

Yes or No. It depends on the case. Can you tell us a bit more information?


Q: Currently my interest is on metals and alloys dislocation density, stress-strain analysis by XRD data analysis as a result of various processing of metals and alloys

We need to separate your request into two: firstly, dislocation density in the metals/alloys could be handled by powder guys, but residual stress could be covered by metallurgy team who are specialized in stress/texture analysis.

Q: Can we get the dimension of crystal cell from PXRD data only?

No. You can also use SC-XRD (Single Crystal XRD) or TEM. But it is no doubt that the easiest way is use of PXRD. The advantages of PXRD is giving you short measurement time, minimum sample preparation and representative result in statistics compared to the others.

Q: ­How can we differentiate grains and crystallites from XRD data ­

Those are the same.

Q: What is the minimum peak height to consider it a significant peak?

It strongly depends on the sample quality and measurement conditions. But, in mathematics, the peak intensity must be higher than 10 times of standard deviation of the background. Then it can be recognized as a peak and quantifiable.

Q: ­In case polymer composites is there any detection limit in terms of volume fraction of the filler? ­

We need to say in weight fraction. So LoD (limit of detection) would be 1 wt.% as a best.

Q: When split peaks seen. Is it suggested to smooth it as single peak and analyse?

Depends. But the smoothing is always not recommended for analysing a PXRD pattern due to the mistreatment.

Q: Will you get the same size from all the peaks in the pattern?

If you are talking about a single phase, it would be relatively similar. But every single reflection has its own directions. So, same size of crystallites will not be obtained. That is why we use an average value to ignore that effect.

Q: ­Does composition affect peak height? ­

Yes. Because the peak intensity is a function of number of electrons at the certain lattice plane.

Q: ­Can you explain why the high angle peaks become more broadened in comparison to low angle when defects are there? ­

Because a peak at higher angle represents a small distance between atomic planes. If some defects existed in your lattice, overall structure would still be okay. But local part is not.

Q: ­While indexing the peaks, what is the minimum number of peaks that need to be matched with a known pattern­

At very least, 3 peaks are needed. But, recommend getting more than 5.

Q: ­Does the peak height in X-Ray diffraction is depends on the volume fraction of material? ­

Usually, we need to say that it depends on a weight fraction since scattering power of X-ray is related to the number of electrons.

Q: ­How much shift in peak should be consider as peak shift due to doping??­

In general, below 0.02 deg would be considerable. But make sure that what is the angular accuracy or reproducibility of your instrument. We have 0.01 deg in error.

Q: ­Why there is background at lower 2 thetas? ­

Due to the presence of air, and some reflections from the sample and holder surface.

Q: ­In analysis most of the characteristic peaks in alloys are at lower angles? So, what significant results can be concluded from high angle peaks? ­

At higher angle, you can see more small changes in the lattice, for example, local distortion/inhomogeneity in atomic position/defects (dislocation, point or screw defects, stacking faults, anti-domain, and so on)

This webinar is ready to watch on-demand. Please click the link below to watch the video. Stay tuned for more XRD webinars!

More Information  View All Blogs

Blog written by: Dr. Daniel Lee, Posted by: Malvern Panaltyical

ProLab Systems Service department commenced its first webinar “Practical Tips To Get The Upmost Of Your XRF Instrument Performance”

ProLab Systems Service department commenced its first webinar for its XRF Customers on 8 June 2020.

The title of the webinar was “Practical Tips To Get The Upmost Of Your XRF Instrument Performance”

The webinar was presented by ProLab Systems Service Manager Mr. Haitham Karim

The aim of the webinar is a continuation of the commitment of ProLab Systems to provide online training to assure that all its customers fully utilize their systems. During these difficult times we want to make sure we are close to our customers to provide them the support they need. In order for them to continue the daily analysis with the least down time and perform effectively at their work.

The Webinar was attended by the representative of the following organizations:


The webinar focused on the following:

  • Reading and interpreting the instrument parameters to prevent breakdown.
  • Checking the operation conditions.
  • Checking your sample preparation reproducibility
  • Daily, weekly and monthly maintenance.
  • Correction actions, measuring monitor, recalibration and adjusting PHD

To request for webinar recording or to get invitation for upcoming webinars please email to Mr. Isa Tareq on

New Steel CRMs – High N, Precipitation Hardening and Austenitic

Our partner  ARMI | MBH we has been busy looking through data and certifying new material and are  proud to announce the release of 5 new Stainless Steel CRMs this month.  (click on the links in the names of each part to see the certificates of analysis.)


Our new steel standards in the MBH portfolio, include 2 high nitrogen steels, a precipitation hardening steel and two stainless steels.

Our new high nitrogen steels are; MBH-13X NSC2 Q and MBH-13X NSC7 BBoth have Cr around 22%, and Mo<0.5% NSC2 Q has N=0.299% and C=0.574%, while NSC7B contains N= 0.429% and C=0.397%. These two steels will compliment the other steels in this series to  provide good calibration ranges for more than 12 certified elements.

Our two new stainless pieces are a new 316 stainless steel; MBH-13X 12854 M .This  austenitic stainless is typical of the grade,  with Ni=11.38%, C=0.08%, N=0.0097%, and certified for 16 additional elements, including Si, S, P, Mn, Cr, Mo, Cu, Co, W, Nb, Ta, Ti, Zr, Sb, Bi and B. The second stainless is MBH-13X 14211 R. This is a traditional wrought stainless steel with Si=1.73%, Ni=12.64%, Cr=24.78 and C=0.047%. It is also certified for 12 additional elements, including S, P, Mn, Mo, Cu, Co, V, Nb, Ta, W, Ti and Al.

Last, but not least, BH-13X PH4 P is a new precipitation hardening steel. This hardened steel contains Cu=5.5%, Cr=15.5%, Ni=4.07%, and is also certified for 13 other elements, including Al, B, C, Co, Mn, Mo, N, Nb,P, S, Si, Ti and V.

Written by: Kim Halkiotis (



Authored by Hussain Al Halwachi. Hussain has published a lot of researches in XRD and XRF filed related to aluminum smelting technology. He has a wide experience in industrial laboratories. He is specialized in X-ray fields and Carbon analyses. He developed many alternative methods in the X-ray filed to replace wet chemical procedures. He is holding in Chemistry from the University of Bahrain, and MBA from Arabian Gulf University in collaboration with ESSEC University – France.

The amount of alloying materials and trace elements in aluminum metal are usually measured by Optical emission spectroscopy (OES) technique, which is an accurate and reliable method applied in most aluminum smelters and downstream industries. In the absence of an OES machine, it is extremely difficult to decide the amount of alloying materials required for each aluminum alloy, and certification of final aluminum product cannot be carried out.

Recently, a new analytical application was developed by Hussain Al Halwachi, a researcher from Aluminum Bahrain Alba, using the Epsilon 1 EDXRF machine for small spot analysis. The application was successfully capable to generate a backup for OES to measure the trace elements in aluminum metal with very high accuracy. In spite of known factors and difficulties in measuring a few of the light elements in Energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) in the lower range, Epsilon 1 for small spot analysis was able to measure the low ranges of Silicon and Manganese, which are crucial elements in aluminum alloys.


Omnian calibration was modified by adding six reference materials certified by Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA). Further an aluminum in-type standard was generated as TAG to measure aluminum samples. Repeatability and reproducibility tests performed, revealed the reliability of the application. The beauty in the new application is that it can assist in measuring even irregular shapes of aluminum pieces and analyze them without sample facing, which help heavily in metal recycling.

The research was recently published in Light Metals 2020, which is the annual book gathering the technical papers for the annual international conference conducted by the minerals, metals & materials society (TMMS) and attended by 4000 worldwide researchers.

Epsilon 1 for small spot analysis is able to measure most of trace elements in aluminum metal samples with very high accuracy, repeatability and precision. Tests showed confidently that the machine is able to produce accurate results


Useful links:


Al Halwachi H. (2020) Aluminum Trace Elements Analyses Using Epsilon 1 Meso EDXRF Technique. In: Tomsett A. (eds) Light Metals 2020. The Minerals, Metals & Materials Series. Springer, Cham- DOI:

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Originally Posted by: Malvern Panalytical ( on 7 May 2020

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In the blog about “Value of mineralogical monitoring” series, we discussed the value of tracking the mineralogical composition for efficient ore beneficiation on the examples of copper and nickel ore. This blog elaborates on copper ore application in more detail.

Complex mineralogy of copper ore

Copper, being a transition metal, is part of many mineralogical phases. Over 150 copper minerals were identified, however, only a few are of economic importance. Copper minerals can be divided into three groups: (i) primary sulphide minerals (e.g. chalcopyrite, bornite, and enargite); (ii) oxides, formed by weathering of primary sulphides (e.g. cuprite, malachite, chrysocolla and covellite); and (iii) secondary sulphides (e.g. chalcocite and covellite) formed from copper leached from near-surface primary sulphides.

The complex mineralogy of copper ore deposits presents a challenge for effective mine planning and further beneficiation steps. Every mineral behaves differently during the flotation or leaching; therefore, mineralogy analysis will help to select correct reagents and efficiently use them. Apart from accurate quantification of economically valuable copper sulphides and oxides, the presence of gangue minerals, like quartz, talc, clays, pyroxenes, or amphiboles has a huge influence on processing and recovery rate.

Failure to adequately monitor copper ore mineralogy can result in reduced recovery rate due to significant variance of the feed and wrong calculation of oxide/sulphide ratio, reduced grinding, and pumping efficiency due to the presence of soft and hard minerals or increased acid consumption due to alteration minerals such as clays.  The combined impact can lead to tens of millions of losses, which can be prevented if accurate and frequent mineralogy checks are in place.  

Earlier we summarised established that X-ray diffraction (XRD) is fast, versatile and accurate mineralogy probe, which can be easily implemented in the process flow at mine operation and processing plant. In the following case study, we evaluate the accuracy of XRD for resolving mineralogical composition of copper ore using 100 samples from a drill core of a Northern American copper ore deposit.

Accurate characterization of copper ore mineralogy by XRD

One hundred samples were prepared as pressed pellets and measured on Aeris Minerals benchtop diffractometer with a scan time of 10 minutes, followed by an automatic quantitative phase analysis. Figure 1 shows the result of XRD analysis using Aeris Minerals tabletop diffractometer of copper ore sample.

Figure 1. Quantitative phase analysis of complex copper ore using Aeris Minerals tabletop diffractometer. Measurement time per sample is 10 minutes.

Any XRD pattern is a set of diffraction peaks of different intensities, located at certain diffraction angles (2q), specific to a certain mineralogical phase. Peak positions enable identification of present phases. The relative intensities of each mineral contribution to the XRD pattern allows us to quantify the relative amount of each present mineral using full-pattern Rietveld refinement [1].

The analyzed sample set is characterized by a very complex mineral composition, varying from sample to sample (Figure 2, top). In total 23 different minerals were identified in the analyzed sample set. Main copper-bearing minerals are a mix of sulphides and oxides: chalcopyrite CuFeS2, cuprite Cu2O, tenorite CuO, brochantite Cu4[(OH)6(SO4)] and serpierite Ca(Cu, Zn). The complex mineralogy of Cu-bearing phases should be considered in the planning of the next processing steps. Oxides and sulphides should be separated and concentrated. Based on the relative phase amounts, the type and quantity of active agents for flotation and leaching should be identified.

Figure 2. Quantitative phase analysis of complex copper ore (top); comparison of total copper and iron content, calculated from mineral composition (black squares), and bulk chemical analyses using (red cycles).

The majority of the analyzed samples are very high in quartz (Figure 2, top).  Quartz is a hard mineral, which will increase wear and tear of the crushing and milling equipment. A significant amount of talc and clay minerals also a reason for concern. These soft minerals are known to cause issues during flotation, increase consumption of acid used for leaching, finally, soft minerals lead to tubes clogging and blockage, reduce milling and pumping efficiency, etc.

Performed quantitative mineralogy analysis (Figure 2, top) allows us to take several decisions to optimize mine planning, further downstream processing, and allows fast counteractions.  But how accurate are the presented results?

Using the identified mineral quantities, the total oxides can be calculated, which can be compared with the bulk chemical analyses. In the bottom graph in Figure 2 the comparison of total iron and copper content, calculated from the mineralogical composition, with that measured by x-ray fluorescence (XRF) is shown.

We see a very good agreement between XRD and XRF results. Even very small amounts of copper minerals can be monitored, and the respective Cu-content can be accurately predicted using 10 minutes measurement of a complex copper ore on a tabletop XRD instrument.

Added-value of XRD monitoring throughout the whole process

In the above section we analyzed mineralogy of 100 drill-core samples of copper ore and identified points of attention for the next processing step. The efficiency of the following steps can also be monitored using X-ray diffraction. In addition to the classical quantitative phase analysis, XRD offers several other tools to simplify day-to-day process monitoring. In our blogs on iron ore and heavy mineral sand processing (published shortly) we will give an example of cluster analyses [2,3] being used for quick and easy monitoring of ore grade definition and mineral separation efficiency. A similar approach can be used to monitor the separation and concentration efficiency at copper processing plant. Mineralogy of tails and waste products can also be controlled using XRD.

On-line control of clay content in copper ore

In the introduction blog we discussed the advantages of near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR) for online mineralogy monitoring. Not all minerals, commonly present in copper ore, are visible for NIR spectroscopy.  however, talc and clay minerals are, and therefore can be easily identified and quantified using on-line NIR over-the-belt analyzer or laboratory NIR spectrometer. Real-time monitoring of clay and talc content in the run-of-mine will improve the efficiency of flotation and leaching processes, prevent possible equipment blockage and other common issues, associated with the presence of large quantities of soft minerals in the ore.

NIR spectrometers can also be part of completely automated laboratories, operate standalone in a laboratory, or assist mine geologists as handheld devices in the field.

To summarize, copper ore mineralogy is very complex and has a major impact on the beneficiation process. To run it efficiently, not only the copper oxide/sulphide ratio should be considered, the adequate and timely control over mineral impurities should part of the process monitoring. A moderate investment in fast, accurate, and reliable mineralogical probs upstream helps to save millions of dollars downstream.

Written By: Dr. Olga Narygina – Malvern Panalytical (

Join Live Webinar On Practical Tips for Efficient Grinding in Laboratory Ball Mills


Our partner RETSCH will be conducting a live webinar on “Practical Tips for Efficient Grinding in Laboratory Ball Mills” provides valuable information which will help to facilitate your daily work and discusses new possibilities for ball milling.

Webinar will include following topics:

  • Ball mills: technology and models
  • Grinding tools: selection of the material, number and size of grinding balls
  • Tips & Tricks for the milling process

At the end of the webinar, you will have the chance to download a package containing all relevant information.

Webinar Information

For your convinience the webinar will be held on the following dates:

  • Date 1: 8th June 2020 – Monday
  • Date 2: 9th June 2020 – Tuesday

At each date there will be two sessions to cover for your convinience

  • Time ( Option 1): 10:00 AM – 11:00 PM (Arabian Standard Time)
  • Time ( Option 2): 17:00 PM – 18:00 PM (Arabian Standard Time)
  • Language: English
  • Speaker:
    Dr. Tanja Butt, Product Manager RETSCH GmbH
    Dr. Gerhard Beckers, Application Specialist RETSCH GmbH

Posted By: Retsch (