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The continuous miniaturization in electronic components, detectors, computing and x-ray tube technologies makes it increasingly possible to use transportable and even handheld x-ray spectrometers to analyse samples without the need of transporting them to the laboratory. Handheld XRF devices are routinely used in metal scrap sorting, as well as in mining and environmental measurements.

Transportable X-ray Fluorescence and X-ray Diffraction instruments are now widely used to study historical artefacts and art objects. On-site XRF examinations can help determine the chemical composition of materials used for historical artefacts and estimate the material's thickness. It can also yield information on the historical use of pigments and pesticides during restoration, which represents important safety information for museum staff.

XRF scanners with sub-millimetre spatial resolution are more and more used to inspect mural and easel paintings and to produce 2D maps depicting the distribution of chemical elements. The latter allows to reveal hidden pictorial layers, repaints or repentances.

Transportable XRD instruments have been designed to allow on site inspection of samples. Instruments featuring the simultaneous tilt of two arms, allocating the x-ray source and the detector respectively, are commonly used for the identification of pigments in paintings.

Diffraction patterns produced through transmission of the excitation beam through the sample can also be recorded using CCD detectors, thus allowing the assembly of very compact instruments for the study of mineral samples.

Publication of interest:

·         Hand-held XRF analysis of the 16th Century Feather Headdress in the Museum of Ethnology Vienna" X-Ray Spectrometry 43 (2014), 138–145,

Available at NSIL:

Handheld XRF


Transportable XRF