XRF, or X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, is a technique that scientists can use in a number of different laboratory and industrial settings to analyze elements. It operates primarily on the fact that atoms emit X-ray photons when they are excited by an energy source. These X-ray photons have certain characteristics and wavelengths that can be measured, analyzed and used to determine certain characteristics about the element that is being studied.
Elements can be identified through X-ray because of the radiation that emits from their inner electronic shells. There are only certain sets of circumstances and conditions under which this radiation is emitted, however. By analyzing the number of photons that come from these situations, scientists can identify the source atoms of the X-ray energy.
X-ray fluorescence spectrometry uses this fact. The machines used in this technique vary from model to model, but all have an X-ray source. They also have a detection unit that is able to measure the results of the beams that are emitted from the source atoms. These detection systems can differ depending on the specific type of X-ray fluorescence spectrometry that is used. However, they all allow the users to quantify and identify the number of photons that are emitted from the source atoms.