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Understanding Our Planet Through Chemistry

X-Ray Spectrometry

X-Ray Spectrometry starts at the atomic level. Atoms consist of protons and neutrons in a central nucleus with electrons in different orbitals around that nucleus. If an electron from an inner orbital is knocked out, the vacancy created is filled by an electron previously residing in a higher orbit. The excess energy resulting from this transition is dissipated as an X-ray photon with a characteristic wavelength. In electron microprobe analyses, the electron vacancies are created by bombarding the sample with a source of accelerate electrons. By detecting the characteristic X-rays that are fluoresced, the element of interest is shown to be present in the sample. The more abundant the X-rays are, the more of that element is present in the sample.

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