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Posted by: In: Uncategorized 24 Mar 2016 0 comments

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time. I think about it every time we get a call or email from someone who wants to talk about an application that’s a little “outside the box” or just making contact to learn more about what we do. The conversation always follows a similar pattern through which they explain what’s needed and I get to offer advice based on my experience, or lack there of, with that type of work. Every time I think I’ve heard it all, I’ll get a call for something completely new. It’s a fascinating world we live in and a great time to be a scientist. That brings me to my point, these callers always seem surprised that when they call, the phone is answered by someone who is technically knowledgeable, at least familiar with the science and quite happy to talk at length about their needs. I tell them all the same thing, “This isn’t just a job, we live for this stuff.”


CNC machining is a relatively small part of what we do at KSA and Texray, but it’s a personal hobby I enjoy quite a bit. I’ve cut many of these SS branding iron heads friends and charity auctions. They’re fun, not too complicated and really cool.


Posted by: In: Uncategorized 24 Mar 2016 0 comments

Preventative maintenance has always been a difficult subject for me. The manufacturers all recommend an annual visit to go over their instruments in the hopes that small issues would be dealt with before they became large issues, but it’s never easy to tell a client that their perfectly functional system requires thousands of dollars in maintenance. That being said, over the last 40 years, we’ve performed countless PM routines all over the world on at least 13 different models of XRD and XRF instrumentation and almost every one of those visits has turned up at least one issue which needed attention for one reason or another. This will be the first of several posts detailing various problems we’ve encountered during these visits.

A long time client at one of our most prestigious national laboratories had gone several years without any maintenance being performed on their Siemens D500. Over that time, corrosion built up in this small receiving area before the incident beam optics. I should be very clear that this has no effect on the shutter assembly, fail-safe features or safety in general. However, if left unchecked, flakes will eventually fall into the beam path. The symptom is simply that intensities are lower. This is not the first time we’ve been called out to replace a tube only to find that the low intensities were due to attenuation. Running through a basic PM before installing the new tube saved $6000 of your tax dollars.


Posted by: In: Uncategorized 07 Sep 2015 0 comments Tags: , , , ,

Every once in a while we get a call for components destined for custom equipment. NIST has built some extremely precise XRD instrumentation from various base components. These are operated in highly controlled environments to qualify certified reference materials (CRM). Some of our other clients have built much more proprietary, but no less impressive systems which I’d love to show in detail if the designs weren’t closely guarded intellectual property.

One of the most interesting and exciting projects we’ve seen recently is the hard-xray monochromator system developed by Dr. Gerald Seidler of University of Washington and his colleagues. The instrument itself has myriad applications, but the general idea is that many experiments which currently require synchrotron time can be performed in a laboratory setting. We’ve worked on other projects like this which were meant more qualification systems to avoid wasting synchrotron time if the experiment didn’t actually require it, but Dr. Seidlers instrument is geared toward bringing XAFS, XES and XANES right into the lab setting.  Read the full paper here.Capture

Posted by: In: Uncategorized 03 Sep 2015 0 comments

There are several key meetings and conferences each year which might concern material scientists in general, but there’s only one exclusively dedicated to analytical X-ray techniques. The Denver X-ray Conference (DXC) has been organized by the International Center for Diffraction Data (ICDD) for the past 64 years! I don’t get to attend as often as I’d like, but I’ve never regretted making the trip. It’s not always in Denver, but The Westin Hotel in Westminster, CO played host yet again this year which makes everything very convenient and relatively inexpensive. I was fortunate enough to merit an invitation from our good friends at Materials Data, Inc. this year and attended as their guest.


The main draw for me is the educational sessions. Classes taught by legends in the industry on everything from basic XRF and XRD theory to advanced structure determination and pair distribution function (PDF) analysis. Topics vary year to year, but this time I sat in on mainly XRD courses. Instructors are usually prominent university professors or industry experts. ICDD has a strict policy against overt advertising in these sessions which means information is presented in “platform neutral” terms and is beneficial for all attendees. The exhibit hall is full of vendors promoting everything from complete XRF and XRD systems (PANalytical, Bruker, Rigaku, Thermo etc) to sample preparation equipment (Chemplex, Spex, Claisse, Mikron, Angstrom). One of the most interesting products I saw was the latest D2 Phaser from Bruker with a new LynxEye PSD capable of eliminating Cu KB1 peaks without the need for a Ni filter. This doesn’t sound like that impressive of a feat until one considers that this will triple the intensities with an inverse effect on data collection times.

Proto has expanded their offerings to include a benchtop XRD with some impressive capabilities. Most notably, it is the only benchtop I’m aware of which offers independent control of the Theta and 2Theta axes. Grazing incidence and rocking curves are valuable data collection techniques which have thus far been unavailable to small XRD users. It’s always going to be hard for a small instrument to match the data quality of a true, research grade XRD such as the D500, D5000 and D8 lines, but they’ve certainly upped their game in this area.



Oxford was onhand to show off some of their very impressive low temperature stages. The more elaborate offerings are capable of cooling a sample to 12K… You read that correctly, 12 Kelvin. They do this with a regenerative He-based cooling system. I installed a D8 last year at Johns Hopkins which was purchased as nothing more than a base for one of these stages.




I spend most of my time bouncing between industrial, academic and government laboratories maintaining and upgrading their hardware so I see many of the attendees throughout the year though it’s rare to spend time with them casually. It’s always a good time with laughs, enlightenment and education.


Posted by: In: Uncategorized 03 Jul 2015 0 comments

We’ve been using additive fabrication (3D printing) and traditional subtractive methods (CNC machining) for years so when we started looking for a fun item to give away at the AAPG conference, we decided that a special Texray/KSA billet Aluminum microsplitter would be a great way to show our prospective clients that we’re not just in the business of chemical analysis, we’re passionate about it.


It is often quipped that sampling technique is the first and most important step toward accurate results. It’s easy to get carried away focusing on instrumental repeatability and analytical error, but these can only ensure accurate results for the aliquot measured. Some of our clients are only producing materials in mg batches, but we got to talk to the users on the other end of the spectrum at AAPG last month. These geologists are concerned with the chemistry of huge formations so getting a representative analysis is critical. They’ll take thousands of samples and combine the results into extremely complicated data sets. Many of the companies exhibiting there were selling data and data representation tools and nothing else. One company specialized in moving massive quantities of data over existing internet infrastructure. Apparently many of these outfits are generating so much data that the only way to move it rapidly enough is to ship boxes of hard disk drives from the exploration site to the central lab.

Those are extreme cases and require exotic solutions. The more common situation is that a client will ship 1kg of material for us to analyze. Sampling at this scale is still an important part of getting accurate results so while it would be very easy to simply spoon a measurable aliquot from the bag, we prefer a more precise and elegant solution. Microsplitters (also referred to as “rifflers”) are a great way for labs to reduce larger bulk materials with reasonable certainty that the they’ll retain a representative sample. These indispensable little devices consist of a top section (the funnel), a splitting mechanism (I call it the comb), and two or three receptacles (bins). The comb is not simply a series of straight slits, each one has a ramped bottom which alternates between one bin or the other. In this way, the sample is divided between the two bins more or less evenly. The contents of one bin are discarded and the contents of the other bin are dumped into the funnel to be split again until the desired volume is reached. This is why it’s best to have three bins on hand.

The gallery below includes a few pictures from the initial rapid prototyping through the finished product. In the end, I added some fancy legs to the side to make it easier to use. Note that the slits are cut with a slitting saw on out CNC milling machine. This allowed for slots which have rounded edges at the top and bottom. This is critical to avoid clumping and makes a very smooth transition at the top and bottom of the comb. We may offer these as a regular product if there is enough interest to justify a production run. If that happens, customized engraving would be an option. Contact us if you’re interested.


Posted by: In: Uncategorized 15 Jun 2015 0 comments


We had a great time at AAPG 2015. Many of our existing customers were there including some from overseas. The oil industry is in a bit of a slump, but it didn’t stop the big players (Baker Hughes, Weatherford Labs, Core Labs, Saudi Aramco, etc) from putting together very impressive booths and lots of extra activities.

The majority of the samples we receive come in volumes high enough to completely fill the well in any of our standard sample holders. Some are too large or oddly shaped which calls for a special holding solution like those listed here, but many are simply very small quantities of powder. Placing these in a standard holder would leave them well outside the plane of diffraction and provide terrible data, not to mention substantial scatter
or diffracted background from whatever the powder is placed on. The answer is a zero background sample holder (ZBH). Most our users at KS Analytical Systems run the original Siemens/Bruker plates, but others are using Si(100) and even glass substrates. We’re very happy to say that
we’re able to offer a direct replacement for these with our new ZBH-32 holders. These fit most Siemens XRD systems and can be customized for use in most any other system. Contact us for more information on this. The scan below shows the data collected from a single mg of Silicon 640B standard powder spread across a ZBH.

Off Planar Quartz ZBH w-1mg 640B

Full scan of 1mg Silicon 640B standard spread across a ZBH


ZBH-32 sample holders mounted for Siemens and Bruker single sample stages.


Some users report acceptable results using simple glass plates. While there are serious caveats here, it may be a reasonable solution for some users. The issue with amorphous glass is not diffracted peaks in the background, but rather, scatter off the surface. X-ray scattering off a surface is inversely proportional to the average atomic number of that material. That is to say, the lighter the matrix, the more efficiently it will scatter X-rays. This is why we use a pure Graphite sample to characterize the emission spectra of our XRF instrumentation. The glass sample shows the expected scatter “hump” starting at a very low angle and it doesn’t flatten until nearly 100°2Θ. While some of this can be modeled and subtracted with good profile fitting software like Jade 2010, it can be challenging to match the data quality of a good ZBH. We’re working on a series of videos to guide new users through some of these features, but on-site training classes are also available.


Glass plate

Amorphous glass empty

Glass-Qtz-Si510 overlay

Glass, ZBH-32 and off-planar quartz scans overlayed for comparison









Several of our customers in the geological industry use standard Si(100) wafers. These can be a great solution, but again have serious drawbacks for some applications. The Si(100) material creates diffracted peaks which are very sharp and therefore easier to model out sometimes, but also very high as the material is monocrystalline. The scan below shows what happens when one tries to run a normal scan across a bare plate. The largest peaks are actually only one or two which have over loaded the detector and caused it to drop out. All of these scans were collected with our SDD-150 which can handle up to 1×10^6 cps, but for the sake of good comparison, we left it tuned as it would be for a standard pattern. The monocrystalline nature of this material causes big problems, but it also allows for a creative solution. See the second scan for the results of the same measurement with the plate angled 1 degree off of theoretical. With this geometry, it’s unlikely this would affect the data quality dramatically, but the offending peaks are drastically diminished.


Si-100 wafer

Si-100 empty

Si-100 locked vs unlocked

Si-100 standard vs skewed scan











Off-planar Quartz holders have been the industry standard for decades. Historically, these have been made from solid, monocrystalline quartz material cut at a specific angle (6° off the C axis if I’m not mistaken). While these work well, they can be inconsistent. Even some of the OEM holders we’ve tested have shown some peaks which we can’t explain. Talking to some very experienced crystallographers, we find that they’ve had similar experiences.



Off Planar Quartz ZBH

Off-planar Quartz empty

ZBH-32 empty

ZBH-32 empty









We’ve been looking for a better answer for several years, but there are few off-the-shelf materials which work as well as off-planar quartz. The ideal answer was to cut solid Si(100) oriented billets such that the face presented to the diffractometer had no d-spacings which would diffract in the normal range of these machines. This is not unlike the off-planar Quartz method, but the starting material is much more consistent and durable. Si(510) offers very low background as well as the consistency of a manufactured product. The new ZBH-32 sample holders from KSA come in two versions, ZBH-25 and ZBH-32 with the latter being ideally suited for rotating stages and low angle work.





20141124_161938Our recent sealed sample cell project required a thin covering film to be applied over loose powder before analysis by XRD. We tested a few options for this film as part of the design process and the results were interesting enough that we thought it would be worth dedicating a full post to that data and expanding the range of materials a bit to satisfy our curiosity.

All data was collected on our primary powder system. This is a Siemens D5000 configured with a theta/theta goniometer, automatic anti-scatter and divergence slits, a standard sealed Cu tube (LFF) and our new KSA-XRD-150 detector system. We alternate between a digital phi stage, 40-position autosampler and the standard, single sample stage which was used in these experiments. I had a spare sealed-sample cell available which made it easy to exchange the films without disturbing the sample surface. The design of these stretches the film taught each time the cell is assembled. I’d originally tried to simply lay the film over a side-load holder, but without being tightly held, it would buckle enough that results at low angles were probably affected. A NiO standard powder was used due to its high purity and compositional difference from any of the film materials.

The data clearly shows that Polyimide was the best choice for this application as it resulted in very limited attenuation as well as an extremely minimal increase in background intensity/amorphous scatter. Some of the other patterns were very interesting though.

20141124_161656 NiO CONTROL No film










NiO Prolene copy NiO Mylar copy










NiO Polycarbonate copy NiO Polyimide copy











NiO Polypropylene copy



NiO Prolene

Scotch “Magic” office tape. Adhesive side down.

NiO Scotch packing

Scotch “Heavy duty” packing tape. Adhesive side down.











Energy-dispersive detectors have been in use on XRD systems for decades, but have always come with caveats. Low energy resolution, Liquid nitrogen cooling, slow start-up and tedious/cryptic tuning controls have limited their popularity in many applications. Silicon Drift technology solves most of these issues and modern electronics covers the rest. The new KSA-SDD system for X-ray diffraction utilizes a full spectrum EDXRF detector which is fully software tuned. The result is a detection system with high enough energy resolution to match the performance of the traditional diffracted-beam monochromator/scintillation counter combination without the inherent 75% intensity drop. The increased countrate allows for much faster data collection speeds with the same counting statistics. We’ve been using this technology at our in-house testing lab (Texray Laboratory Services) for several months to great effect while we refined the system and are now ready to open it up to all XRD users. Contact us to discuss options for integration into your diffractometer.

SDD-XRD-150 installed on a Siemends D5000TT PXRD system. This is one of the powder systems we operate at Texray-Lab.

SDD-XRD-150 installed on a Siemends D5000TT PXRD system. This is one of the powder systems we operate at Texray-Lab.

The detector mounts directly in place of the original scintillation counter.

The detector mounts directly in place of the original scintillation counter.













  • Scanning 3-4 times as fast as the traditional scintillation counter/diffracted beam monochromator yields nearly identical results.
  • Scanning at the same rate results in much smoother scans, greatly improved statistical data and lower limits of detection/quantification.
Novaculite SDD vs SC

Complete scan of Novaculite Quartz with a diffracted beam monochromator and scintillation counter vs the new KSA-SDD-150.

Novaculite SDD vs SC 5 fingers

5-fingers of Quartz scan of Novaculite Quartz with a diffracted beam monochromator and scintillation counter vs the new KSA-SDD-150.










Energy resolution

  • 140eV under ideal conditions.
  • All KB peaks eliminated electronically.
  • W LA1 (8.40 KeV) lines eliminated from Cu KA1,2 (8.04 KeV) scans even with thoroughly contaminated tubes.
  • Common fluorescence energies (i.e. Fe when Cu tube anodes are used) are greatly reduced. (Bremsstrahlung effects are impossible to remove completely)
  • Most PSD detectors offer no better than 650eV. This allows for a great deal of fluorescence energy to pass as well as W LA1 from older Cu tubes.

Low angle scatter

  • The detector mounts in place of the traditional scintillation counter allowing for use of automated variable (motorized) or interchangeable aperture slits to control angular resolution. Scans starting from 0.5 degrees 2? are possible with the proper slit arrangement just as they are with the scintillation counter. The user controls the intensity vs angular resolution of the scan based upon the ideal conditions for their work rather than the limitations of the hardware.
  • Position sensitive detectors are wide open by design which necessitates knife edges over the sample and additional mechanical aperture plates to block air scatter at low angles. Closing off the detector limits the useable channels and reduces the benefit of these detectors dramatically.
Novaculite SDD vs SC low angle

Minimal low angle scatter due to the use of standard aperture slits.

Novaculite SDD vs SC Cu KB1 and W LA1

Cu KB1 and W LA1 energies diffract from the 100% peak of Novaculite in between the two primary peaks shown here. Tests with a severely contaminated tube showed no W LA1 passing through the discriminator.










Truly zero maintenance design

  • No delays – The detector is ready to collect data almost as soon as power is applied.
  • No external cooling – Air backed Peltier cooling eliminates the need for water circulation and/or liquid nitrogen.
  • Zero maintenance vacuum design eliminates reliance on an ion pump/backup battery.
  • 12 month warranty against hardware failure under normal use.


  • The Digital Pulse Processor (DPP) includes a usb interface allowing for adjustment and refinement should they be necessary for a particular application. With optional software, full quantitative EDXRF analysis can be performed.
  • Compatibility with grazing-incidence attachments and parallel beam optics for analysis of thin films.


The detector can be set for any common XRD anode (energy) easily. Multiple energies may even be configured to allow for use with various anodes without the need for additional hardware. We specialize in Siemens (now Bruker) XRD and WD-XRF instrumention and have installation kits ready for the D500, D5000 and D5005. The output is a standard BNC cable with a 5V square pulse output which is standard across every manufacturer we’ve worked with. Kevex and Thermo Si(Li) detectors used this same output.

Please contact KS Analytical Systems for a quote.


Some months ago we had a pair of scientists visit our space to look over a refurbished Siemens D5000. Interestingly enough, they’d planned to use the system for some basic XRD, but mainly for the development of polycapillary optics. This is a fascinating new technology that’s gaining steam out in the R&D centers around the world and merits a full post dedicated to it ASAP. This is the type of “game changing” innovation which hasn’t come along in XRD in decades. They took delivery of their machine a few weeks ago, but while on-site they asked about another project. All that’s really needed is simple phase analysis by XRD with one complication, the material reacts violently when exposed to air.

We roughed out a basic design the same day, but that was only the beginning. Dealing with materials like this necessitates careful consideration of all material and procedures involved in getting it from the lab where it’s synthesized to ours and back. The final design involved billet Aluminum, BUNA rubber o-rings and polyimide (Kapton) film and took quite a while to flesh out. The end result is a complete system which allows the customer to load the samples into individual cells inside their own glove box. The individual cells can be loaded into the case inside the glove box as well. The outer o-rings on the cells seal against chamfered edges on the pockets of the case creating a second sealed area above and below the sample. It’s unlikely that the inner cell would ever rupture, but this protects the polyimide film and adds a substantial extra level of safety.


This is the complete case as it will ship. The flat-head bolts hold everything together and provide the necessary force to seal the chambers.


With the case open, you can see the individual cells along with the top and bottom of the case. The labeling shouldn’t be necessary since there are strict protocols in place for transportation of this material, but it never hurts to be cautious.


The original design called for a slightly more secure seal, but when we started working up the procedure to assemble them, it became clear that something simpler was needed, particularly considering that these will be loaded in a glove-box. An 11th hour rehash necessitated new o-rings, modification of the outer cell rings and complete redesign and fabrication of the cell center sections. I think this was well worth the effort though as they’re much easier to assemble now. There’s even a nice little tool to make it easier to open them back up for disposal or reloading. The original design would have been essential disposable.

DSC_0331 (2)