Anikó Bezur completed the second week of the Short Course in Modern X-ray Spectrometry at the University of Western Ontario in June 2015 and earned the “Best of Class” certificate for this portion of the course (she completed the first week in 2011). The intensive course has been offered at UWO since 1990 and is team-taught by instructors with diverse backgrounds in academia, materials processing industries, instrument manufacture and quantification software design . The first week offers an in-depth introduction to the techniques of energy-dispersive and wavelength-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy and the second week focuses on quantitative analysis.
X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy is one of the most frequently used analytical techniques used to characterize the elemental composition of cultural heritage because it can be performed in situ (on the surface of the object) and because it is non-destructive. The Technical Studies Laboratory has two energy-dispersive x-ray fluorescence spectrometers: a highly-portable handheld unit that analyzes a relatively large area on the surface and a larger instrument capable of analyzing very small areas (about 75 micrometers in diameter). Most analyses are qualitative, meaning that it is sufficient to learn which elements are present in order to draw inferences about the materials present within the volume studied by the instruments. For example, the simultaneous detection of copper and arsenic on 19th- or 20th-century object with green pigments likely indicates the presence of emerald green (copper acetoarsenite) or, more rarely, Sheele’s green (copper arsenite). The Technical Studies Laboratory is gearing up to work on several upcoming projects that require quantitative analysis: the determination of the weight percent of elements present. Attending the XRF Short Course allowed Anikó to deepen her understanding of analytical method development and to acquire strong foundations in the use of fundamental parameters approaches for quantitative XRF.