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Title:
X-RAY FLUORESCENCE ANALYZER WITH A PLURALITY OF MEASUREMENT CHANNELS, AND A METHOD FOR PERFORMING X-RAY FLUORESCENCE ANALYSIS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/202199
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An X-ray fluorescence analyzer comprises an X-ray tube (402) for emitting incident X-rays (206) in the direction of a first optical axis (204). A slurry handling unit (201) is configured to maintain a constant distance between a sample (202) of slurry and said X-ray tube. A first crystal diffractor (601, 1501) is located in a first direction from said slurry handling unit (201). It comprises a first crystal (603, 1502) and a first radiation detector (602, 1505) configured to detect fluorescent X-rays diffracted by said first crystal (603, 1502) at a first energy resolution. A second crystal diffractor (1511) is located in a second direction from said slurry handling unit (201). It comprises a second crystal (1512) and a second radiation detector (1515) configured to detect fluorescent X-rays diffracted by said second crystal (1512) at a second energy resolution. Said first crystal (603, 1502) is a pyrolytic graphite crystal, said second crystal (1512) is of a material other than pyrolytic graphite, and said first and second crystal diffractors are configured to direct to their respective radiation detectors characteristic fluorescent radiation of a same element.

Inventors:
KOSKINEN, Tommi (Kilonrinne 10 F 144, Espoo, 02610, FI)
PELLI, Antti (Linnustajantie 2 F 24, Espoo, 02940, FI)
SIPILÄ, Heikki (Hannuksenkuja 1 C, Espoo, 02270, FI)
Application Number:
FI2018/050283
Publication Date:
October 24, 2019
Filing Date:
April 20, 2018
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
OUTOTEC (FINLAND) OY (Rauhalanpuisto 9, Espoo, 02230, FI)
International Classes:
G01N23/223; B03B13/06; C22B3/02; G01T1/16; G21K1/06
Foreign References:
US20140037053A12014-02-06
US3354308A1967-11-21
US3150261A1964-09-22
US3198944A1965-08-03
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PAPULA OY (P.O. Box 981, Helsinki, 00101, FI)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer, compris ing :

- an X-ray tube (402) for emitting incident X-rays (206) in the direction of a first optical axis (204),

- a slurry handling unit (201) configured to maintain a constant distance between a sample (202) of slurry and said X-ray tube,

- a first crystal diffractor (601, 1501) located in a first direction from said slurry handling unit (201), said first crystal diffractor (601, 1501) comprising a first crystal (603, 1502),

- a first radiation detector (602, 1505) configured to detect fluorescent X-rays diffracted by said first crystal (603, 1502) at a first energy resolution,

- a second crystal diffractor (1511) located in a sec ond direction from said slurry handling unit (201), said second crystal diffractor (1511) comprising a second crystal (1512),

- a second radiation detector (1515) configured to de tect fluorescent X-rays diffracted by said second crystal (1512) at a second energy resolution,

characterized in that:

- said first crystal (603, 1502) is a pyrolytic graph- ite crystal,

- said second crystal (1512) is of a material other than pyrolytic graphite, and

- said first and second crystal diffractors are con figured to direct to their respective radiation detec- tors characteristic fluorescent radiation of a same element .

2. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to claim 1, wherein said second crystal (1512) is one of: a silicon dioxide crystal, a lithium fluoride crystal, an ammonium dihydrogen phosphate crystal, a potassium hydrogen phthalate crystal.

3. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to any of claim 1 or claim 2, wherein said first ener gy resolution is better than 300 eV at a reference en ergy of 5.9 keV .

4. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to any of the preceding claims, wherein said first ra diation detector (1505) is one of: a PIN diode detec tor, a silicon drift detector, a germanium detector, a germanium drift detector.

5. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to any of the preceding claims, wherein said second radiation detector (1515) is a gas-filled proportional counter .

6. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to any of the preceding claims, wherein said element is gold.

7. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to any of the preceding claims, wherein:

- said slurry handling unit (201) is configured to maintain a planar surface of said sample (202) of slurry on a side facing said X-ray tube (402),

- said first optical axis (204) is at an oblique angle against said planar surface,

- said first crystal diffractor (601, 1501) is located at that rotational angle around said first optical ax is (204) at which said planar surface of said sample (202) covers the largest portion of a field of view of the first crystal diffractor (601, 1501), and

- said second crystal diffractor (1511) is located at another rotational angle around said first optical ax is (204) .

8. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to any of claims 1 to 6, wherein:

- said slurry handling unit (201) is configured to maintain a planar surface of said sample (202) of slurry on a side facing said X-ray tube (402), and - said first optical axis (204) is perpendicular against said planar surface.

9. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to any of the preceding claims, wherein the input pow er rating of said X-ray tube (402) is at least 400 watts .

10. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to claim 9, wherein the input power rating of said X- ray tube (402) is at least 1 kilowatt, preferably at least 2 kilowatts, and more preferably at least 4 kil owatts .

11. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to any of the preceding claims, wherein the optical path between said X-ray tube (402) and said slurry handling unit (201) is direct with no diffractor therebetween .

12. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to any of the preceding claims, wherein

- the X-ray tube (402) comprises an anode for generat ing said incident X-rays (206), and

- said slurry handling unit (201) is configured to maintain a shortest linear distance that is shorter than 50 mm, preferably shorter than 40 mm, and more preferably shorter than 30 mm between said sample (202) of slurry and said anode.

13. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to claim 12, wherein said X-ray tube (402) is an X-ray tube of the end window type.

14. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to any of the preceding claims, wherein the diffrac tive surface of said pyrolytic graphite crystal (603) is one of the following: a simply connected surface curved in one direction; a simply connected surface curved in two directions; a rotationally symmetric surface that is not simply connected.

15. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to any of the preceding claims, comprising:

- an analyzer body (401),

- a front wall (303) of said analyzer body (401),

- an opening in said front wall (303) , and

- a holder (403) for removably holding said slurry handling unit (201) against an outer side of said front wall (303) and aligned with said opening in said front wall (303) .

16. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to claim 15, wherein said X-ray tube (402) and said first crystal diffractor (601) are both inside said analyzer body, on the same side of said front wall (303) .

17. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to any of the preceding claims, comprising a filter plate (205) on the optical path between said X-ray tube (402) and said slurry handling unit (201) .

18. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to claim 17, wherein said filter plate (205) is locat ed closer to said X-ray tube (402) than to said slurry handling unit (201) .

19. An X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to any of the preceding claims, comprising a calibra tor plate (305) and an actuator (501) configured to controllably move said calibrator plate (305) between at least two positions, of which a first position is not on the path of the incident X-rays (206) and a second position is on the path of the incident X-rays (206) and in a field of view of the first crystal dif- fractor (601) .

20. A method for performing X-ray fluores cence analysis, comprising:

- irradiating a sample (202) of slurry with incident X-rays and receiving fluorescent X-rays from the irra diated sample (202),

- separating first and second predefined wavelength ranges (1301, 1401) from respective first and second portions of said received fluorescent X-rays with re spective first and second crystal diffractors (1501, 1511), wherein said first wavelength range (1301) and said second wavelength range (1401) both include char acteristic fluorescent radiation of a same element, and wherein said first wavelength range (1301) is at least twice as wide as said second wavelength range (1401) ,

- detecting the fluorescent X-rays in said first and second separated wavelength ranges with respective first and second radiation detectors (1505, 1515), wherein the energy resolution of said first radiation detector (1505) is better than 300 eV at a reference energy of 5.9 keV, thus producing respective first and second detection results, and

- calculating a concentration of said element in said sample (202) from at least one of said first and sec ond detection results.

21. A method according to claim 20, wherein said calculating comprises:

- calculating a combined intensity of background radi ation and fluorescent X-rays from others than said el ement using at least one of the first and second de tection results,

- subtracting, from the total intensity detected in a wavelength range containing said characteristic peak of fluorescent X-rays of an element to be measured in said sample, the calculated combined intensity of background radiation and fluorescent X-rays from other elements than said element of interest in said sample, and

- providing the result of said subtracting as the cal culated intensity of said characteristic fluorescent X-ray peak.

22. A method according to any of claims 20 or

21, wherein said calculating comprises:

- analyzing from said first and second detection re sults whether the influence of a characteristic peak from another element on the first detection result is larger than a predetermined threshold,

- if said analyzing shows that the influence of said characteristic peak from said other element on the first detection result is larger than said predeter mined threshold, calculating said concentration of said element in said sample (202) from said second de tection result, and

- if said analyzing shows that the influence of said characteristic peak from said other element on the first detection result is not larger than said prede termined threshold, calculating said concentration of said element in said sample (202) from said first de tection result.

23. A method according to any of claims 20 to

22, wherein said element is gold.

24. A method according to any of claims 20 to 22, wherein said characteristic fluorescent radiation comprises a K- or L-peak of an element with 30 £ Z £ 92, where Z is the atomic number of said element.

25. A method according to any of claims 20 to 24, wherein said sample (202) comprises said element within a matrix consisting of primarily elements with Z £ 8, where Z is the atomic number.

Description:
X-RAY FLUORESCENCE ANALYZER WITH A PLURALITY OF MEASUREMENT CHANNELS, AND A METHOD FOR PERFORMING X-RAY FLUORESCENCE ANALYSIS

TECHNICAL FIELD

The invention relates to the technical field of X-ray fluorescence analysis. In particular the in vention relates to the task of detecting relatively small amounts of fluorescent radiation from an element of interest in the presence of significant background radiation and/or fluorescent radiation from other ele ments . BACKGROUND

X-ray fluorescence analysis can be used to detect the presence and measure the concentration of elements of interest in a matrix of other elements. For example in mining industry it is important to know, whether a mineral or metal of interest is pre sent in a sample and in which quantities. In order to be applicable in an industrial process, the X-ray flu orescence analysis method should be reasonably accu rate even at relatively short exposure times, and pos- sible to implement with robust and mechanically relia ble measurement devices.

A particular application of X-ray fluores cence analysis within the mining industry is the anal ysis of elements of interest in slurries. By defini- tion, a slurry is a water-based suspension of fine, solid particles of crushed and ground ore, in which the dry weight of the solid particles is less than 90 per cent, typically 20-80 per cent, of the total mass of the sample. The fact that the sample is in the form of slurry places particular requirements for sample handling. For example, it is advantageous to maintain the flow of the sample turbulent, so that its consti tution remains evenly mixed and the fractions do not separate from each other. At the same time the meas urement geometry should remain as constant as possible in order not to cause unwanted geometry-based varia tions in measurement results.

The concentrations of elements of interest in the slurry are often very low. For example copper, zinc, lead, and molybdenum need to be measured in con centrations like 0.01 per cent or lower, and concen trations of gold to be measured may be in the order of only some ppm, like 1-5 ppm. Such a low concentration makes the measurement difficult, because the intensity of fluorescent radiation from the element of interest is very low, which inevitably increases the effect of statistical errors. When the intensity is low in com parison to other radiation intensities involved, like fluorescent radiation from other, non-interesting ele ments, overlap with adjacent peaks causes problems. Measurement times cannot be made arbitrarily long, be cause the slurry comes as a continuous flow from the refining process and is an important online indicator of what is happening in the process. The X-ray fluo rescence measurement should be fast enough to detect trending changes in the slurry composition, so that the measurement results could be used to control the refining process in real time.

SUMMARY

It is an objective of the invention to pro vide an apparatus and a method for performing accurate and reliable X-ray fluorescence analysis of small con centrations of elements in slurry under demanding in dustrial conditions. Another objective of the inven- tion is to provide such an apparatus and method that have the ability to adapt to different kinds of sam ples and different kinds of conditions. The foregoing and other objectives are achieved by using at least two crystal diffractors and their respective detectors that detect characteristic fluorescent radiation of the same element, so that one of the crystal diffractors contains a pyrolytic graph ite crystal.

According to a first aspect, an X-ray fluo rescence analyzer is provided. The X-ray fluorescence analyzer comprises an X-ray tube for emitting incident X-rays in the direction of a first optical axis, and a slurry handling unit configured to maintain, in the direction of said first optical axis, a constant dis tance between a sample of slurry and said X-ray tube. The X-ray fluorescence analyzer comprises a first crystal diffractor located in a first direction from said slurry handling unit, said first crystal diffrac tor comprising a first crystal. The X-ray fluorescence analyzer comprises a first radiation detector config ured to detect fluorescent X-rays diffracted by said first crystal at a first energy resolution. The X-ray fluorescence analyzer comprises a second crystal dif fractor located in a second direction from said slurry handling unit, said second crystal diffractor compris ing a second crystal. The X-ray fluorescence analyzer comprises a second radiation detector configured to detect fluorescent X-rays diffracted by said second crystal at a second energy resolution. Said first crystal is a pyrolytic graphite crystal, and said sec ond crystal is of a material other than pyrolytic graphite. Said first and second crystal diffractors are configured to direct to their respective radiation detectors characteristic fluorescent radiation of a same element.

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, said second crystal is one of: a silicon dioxide crystal, a lithium fluoride crystal, an ammonium dihy drogen phosphate crystal, a potassium hydrogen phthalate crystal. This involves the advantage that sharp wavelength dispersive diffraction can be ob tained with the second crystal.

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, said first energy resolution is better than 300 eV at a reference energy of 5.9 keV. This involves the advantage that the detector can provide accurate ener gy dispersive detection within the relatively wide wavelength range passed by the pyrolytic graphite crystal .

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, said first radiation detector is one of: a PIN diode detector, a silicon drift detector, a germanium detector, a germanium drift detector. This involves the advantage that the first radiation detector may combine accurate and reliable operation with compact size and robust overall appearance.

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, said second radiation detector is a gas-filled proportional counter. This involves the advantage that relatively good detection efficiency can be achieved at relatively low manufacturing cost.

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, said element is gold. This involves the ad vantage that even very low concentrations of a rela tively valuable element can be detected.

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, said slurry handling unit is configured to main tain a planar surface of said sample of slurry on a side facing said X-ray tube, said first optical axis is at an oblique angle against said planar surface, said first crystal diffractor is located at that rota tional angle around said first optical axis at which said planar surface of said sample covers the largest portion of a field of view of the first crystal dif fractor, and said second crystal diffractor is located at another rotational angle around said first optical axis. This involves the advantage that fluorescent ra diation can be collected to the first crystal diffrac- tor from as large spatial angle as possible.

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, said slurry handling unit is configured to main tain a planar surface of said sample of slurry on a side facing said X-ray tube, and said first optical axis is perpendicular against said planar surface. This involves the advantage that a number of measure ment channels can be placed symmetrically around the X-ray tube.

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, the input power rating of said X-ray tube is at least 400 watts. This involves the advantage that a relatively large amount of fluorescent radiation can be generated.

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, the input power rating of said X-ray tube is at least 1 kilowatt, preferably at least 2 kilowatts, and more preferably at least 4 kilowatts. This involves the advantage that an even larger amount of fluores cent radiation can be generated.

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, the optical path between said X-ray tube and said slurry handling unit is direct with no diffractor therebetween. This involves the advantage that a large proportion of the original incident radiation can be utilized, and the X-ray tube can be placed very close to the sample.

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, the X-ray tube comprises an anode for generating said incident X-rays, and said slurry handling unit is configured to maintain a shortest linear distance that is shorter than 50 mm, preferably shorter than 40 mm, and more preferably shorter than 30 mm between said sample of slurry and said anode. This involves the ad- vantage that a large proportion of the original inci dent radiation can be utilized.

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, said X-ray tube is an X-ray tube of the end win dow type. This involves the advantage that a short distance between X-ray tube and sample can be realized while simultaneously leaving ample space for detection channels .

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, the diffractive surface of said pyrolytic graph ite crystal is one of the following: a simply connect ed surface curved in one direction; a simply connected surface curved in two directions; a rotationally sym metric surface that is not simply connected. This in volves the advantage that the most advantageous form of the crystal can be selected for each application.

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, the X-ray fluorescence analyzer comprises an an alyzer body, a front wall of said analyzer body, an opening in said front wall, and a holder for removably holding said slurry handling unit against an outer side of said front wall and aligned with said opening in said front wall. This involves the advantage that the slurry handling unit is easy to remove for servic ing .

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, said X-ray tube and said first crystal diffrac- tor are both inside said analyzer body, on the same side of said front wall. This involves the advantage that the structure is robust, and good protection can be obtained against accidentally irradiating anything.

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, the X-ray fluorescence analyzer comprises a fil ter plate on the optical path between said X-ray tube and said slurry handling unit. This involves the ad vantage that the spectrum of the incident radiation can be tuned in a suitable way. In a possible implementation of the first as pect, said filter plate is located closer to said X- ray tube than to said slurry handling unit. This in volves the advantage that the filter does not unneces sarily obstruct the field of view of the detection channels .

In a possible implementation of the first as pect, the X-ray fluorescence analyzer comprises a cal ibrator plate and an actuator configured to controlla- bly move said calibrator plate between at least two positions, of which a first position is not on the path of the incident X-rays and a second position is on the path of the incident X-rays and in a field of view of the first crystal diffractor. This involves the advantage that calibrating can be easily automa tized.

According to a second aspect, there is pro vided a method for performing X-ray fluorescence anal ysis. The method comprises irradiating a sample of slurry with incident X-rays and receiving fluorescent X-rays from the irradiated sample; separating first and second predefined wavelength ranges from respec tive first and second portions of said received fluo rescent X-rays with respective first and second crys tal diffractors, wherein said first wavelength range and said second wavelength range both include charac teristic fluorescent radiation of a same element, and wherein said first wavelength range is at least twice as wide as said second wavelength range; detecting the fluorescent X-rays in said first and second separated wavelength ranges with respective first and second ra diation detectors, wherein the energy resolution of said first radiation detector is better than 300 eV at a reference energy of 5.9 keV, thus producing respec tive first and second detection results; and calculat ing a concentration of said element in said sample from at least one of said first and second detection results .

In a possible implementation of the second aspect, said calculating comprises calculating a com bined intensity of background radiation and fluores cent X-rays from others than said element using at least one of the first and second detection results; subtracting, from the total intensity detected in a wavelength range containing said characteristic peak of fluorescent X-rays of an element to be measured in said sample, the calculated combined intensity of background radiation and fluorescent X-rays from other elements than said element of interest in said sample; and providing the result of said subtracting as the calculated intensity of said characteristic fluores cent X-ray peak. This involves the advantage that the accuracy of the measurement may be enhanced by using detection results from two detection channels.

In a possible implementation of the second aspect, said calculating comprises analyzing from said first and second detection results whether the influ ence of a characteristic peak from another element on the first detection result is larger than a predeter mined threshold; if said analyzing shows that the in fluence of said characteristic peak from said other element on the first detection result is larger than said predetermined threshold, calculating said concen tration of said element in said sample from said sec ond detection result; and if said analyzing shows that the influence of said characteristic peak from said other element on the first detection result is not larger than said predetermined threshold, calculating said concentration of said element in said sample from said first detection result. This involves the ad vantage that the way of processing the results can be adapted to the actual occurrence of fluorescent radia tion from other elements. In a possible implementation of the second aspect, said element is gold. This involves the ad vantage that the presence and concentration of gold can be detected despite the occurrence of another ele ment with a nearby characteristic fluorescent peak.

In a possible implementation of the second aspect, said characteristic fluorescent radiation com prises a K- or L-peak of an element with 30 £ Z £ 92, where Z is the atomic number of said element. This in volves the advantage that a large variety of elements can be detected.

In a possible implementation of the second aspect, said sample comprises said element within a matrix consisting of primarily elements with Z £ 8, where Z is the atomic number. This involves the ad vantage that for example water-based slurries can be analyzed .

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings, which are included to provide a further understanding of the invention and constitute a part of this specification, illus trate embodiments of the invention and together with the description help to explain the principles of the invention. In the drawings:

Figure 1 illustrates a principle of X-ray fluorescence analysis in an industrial process,

Figure 2 illustrates a detail of an example of an X-ray fluorescence analyzer,

Figure 3 illustrates an example of the use of a calibrator plate,

Figure 4 illustrates an example of an X-ray fluorescence analyzer,

Figure 5 illustrates some structural details of an example of an X-ray fluorescence analyzer,

Figure 6 illustrates an example of a crystal diffractor, Figure 7 illustrates some geometrical aspects of a crystal diffractor,

Figure 8 illustrates some shapes of diffrac tor crystals,

Figure 9 illustrates an example of a radia tion propagation geometry,

Figure 10 illustrates another example of a radiation propagation geometry,

Figure 11 illustrates an example of a radia tion spectrum,

Figure 12 illustrates another example of a radiation spectrum,

Figure 13 illustrates another example of a radiation spectrum,

Figure 14 illustrates another example of a radiation spectrum,

Figure 15 illustrates a plurality of detec tion channels,

Figure 16 illustrates example of radiation spectra,

Figure 17 illustrates an example of a slurry handling unit,

Figure 18 illustrates an X-ray tube with its optical axis perpendicular against the sample surface,

Figure 19 illustrates an X-ray tube with its optical axis at an oblique angle against the sample surface,

Figure 20 illustrates an example of placing a plurality of detection channels,

Figure 21 illustrates an example of placing a plurality of detection channels,

Figure 22 illustrates measured detection ac curacy of an example apparatus,

Figure 23 illustrates measured detection ac curacy of an example apparatus,

Figure 24 illustrates measured detection ac curacy of an example apparatus, and Figure 25 illustrates measured detection ac curacy of an example apparatus.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Fig. 1 illustrates an example of the princi ple of using an X-ray fluorescence analyzer in an in dustrial process. It is typical to industrial process es that the sample to be analyzed may come as a more or less continuous flow of sample material, so that there is a sample handling unit or system that brings the sample to the analysis and takes it away after the analysis. In the schematic illustration of fig. 1 the sample 101 comes as a flow of sample material on a conveyor 102, which here constitutes the sample han dling system. An X-ray source 103 generates a beam 104 of incident X-rays that hit a portion of the sample 101 that is within the field of view of the beam 104. Fluorescent X-rays 105 are emitted in all directions, and some of them are collected to a detection system that in fig. 1 comprises a first slit 106, a wave length-dispersive diffractor crystal 107, a second slit 108, and a radiation detector 109. The plant may comprise a control computer system 110 that may con trol the control subsystems 111 and 112 of the convey or 102 and the X-ray fluorescence analyzer 113 respec tively.

The generation of fluorescent X-rays is a stochastic process by nature, so any analysis that is performed on the basis of received fluorescent X-ray photons is basically the more reliable, the more such photons can be collected. A known way to increase the statistical reliability of an X-ray fluorescence anal ysis is to lengthen the duration of time that the sam ple remains illuminated by the incident radiation. If the sample is stationary, this means simply waiting a longer time before the sample is changed. The nature of an industrial process may require however that the sample comes as a constantly moving stream. Even then the concept of a longer measurement time exists in a way, because if the constitution of the sample stream remains essentially constant, accumulating the amounts of detected fluorescent X-ray photons from the moving sample stream for X minutes is essentially the same as keeping a portion of the sample material stationary in the analysis for X minutes.

There are limits, however, to how long the averaging time may be when a constantly moving sample stream is analyzed, because the constitution of the sample stream does change, and these changes may be important and should therefore be noticed. Additional ly if the sample comes in the form of a slurry there are other factors that make the situation more compli cated, like the requirement that the flow of the slur ry should remain turbulent in order to prevent separa tion of the solid and liquid phases. It is not uncom mon that a sample of slurry flows through the slurry handling unit at a rate in the order of 20 liters per minute. An objective of the invention is that reasona bly good detection results could be obtained by using averaging times in the order of minutes, like 2 minutes or like 3 to 5 minutes.

In the following, improvements to the X-ray fluorescence analysis through factors like measurement geometry, incident radiation power, selection of dif- fractor crystal materials, selection of detector types, use of a plurality of detection channels, and advanced utilization of detection results, are there fore considered.

Fig. 2 is a schematic cross section of cer tain parts of an X-ray fluorescence analyzer. The X- ray fluorescence analyzer comprises an X-ray tube for emitting incident X-rays 206 in the direction of a first optical axis 204. A radiation window 203 of the X-ray tube is seen in fig. 2. For handling a sample 202 of slurry the X-ray fluorescence analyzer compris es a slurry handling unit 201, which in this case com prises a sample chamber 208 or sample cell equipped with inlet and outlet connections. The exact way in which the sample chamber 208 and its inlet and outlet connections are formed in order to ensure a turbulent flow of the sample 202 inside the chamber is not per tinent to this particular description. As an example, principles explained in the international patent ap plication published as WO2017140938 may be followed. In any case, the slurry handling unit is configured to maintain a constant distance between the sample 202 of slurry and the X-ray tube. The constant distance may be considered for example in the direction of the first optical axis 204.

Keeping the distance constant has the effect that the measurement geometry does not change, at least not with reference to the distance and viewing angle that have an important effect on what proportion of the incident X-rays 206 will hit the sample 202. As such, the apparatus may comprise means for changing the distance, for example by changing a distance at which the X-ray tube is installed. In other words, it is not mandatory that said distance will always remain the same. Merely, it is advantageous for the purposes of straightforward processing of the detection results that the mechanical configuration of the X-ray fluo rescence analyzer allows maintaining said distance constant during a measurement, whenever wanted.

Fig. 3 illustrates how the slurry handling unit 201 comprises a sample window 301 in a wall of the sample chamber 208 for allowing X-rays to pass through while keeping the sample 202 of slurry within said sample chamber 208. The sample window 301 is an opening covered by a window foil 302 made of a materi al that is as transparent to X-rays as possible, while simultaneously being strong enough mechanically to withstand the pressure of, and mechanical wear caused by, the flowing slurry. This way the slurry handling unit is configured to maintain a planar surface of the sample 202 of slurry on a side facing the X-ray tube. In the geometry shown in figs. 2 and 3 the first opti cal axis 204 is perpendicular against said planar sur face .

Also shown in figs. 2 and 3 is a front wall 303 of an analyzer body, and an opening in said front wall 303. Another window foil 304 covers said opening in the front wall 303. Just like the window foil 302 of the sample window 301 in the sample chamber 208, the other window foil 304 is made of a material that is as transparent to X-rays as possible. The purpose of the other window foil 304 is to protect the inside of the X-ray fluorescence analyzer device against dust, moisture, and other contaminants that may be abundant in its surroundings in an industrial process.

Fig. 2 shows how the incident X-rays 206 that hit the sample 202 give rise to fluorescent X-rays 207. These are originally directed to all directions, but of interest are those fluorescent X-rays 207 that come out of the sample chamber 208 through the sample window 301 and can be collected to one or more detec tion channels. The location, geometry, and properties of such detection channels are described in more de tail later.

Another feature shown in figs. 2 and 3 is a filter plate 205 on the optical path between the X-ray tube and the slurry handling unit. A filter plate of this kind is an optional feature. It works as a high- pass filter by attenuating particularly the lowest- energy portion of the X-rays that were originally gen erated in the X-ray tube. The material and thickness of a filter plate 205, if one is used, can be selected so that it passes those X-rays that are energetic enough to generate fluorescence in the element (s) of interest in the sample 202. It is particularly useful to use a filter of the high-pass type instead of e.g. a primary diffractor that would constitute a band-pass filter, because the high-pass filter will pass a wide range of more energetic incident X-rays, which are then available for generating fluorescent X-rays in a number of elements of interest simultaneously.

If a filter plate 205 is used, it is advanta geous to place it closer to the X-ray tube than to the slurry handling unit. The filter plate 205 can be even attached to the X-ray tube, so that it is very close to the radiation window 203 of the X-ray tube. If the filter pate 205 is additionally dimensioned in the transverse direction so that it is only little larger, or not larger at all, than the radiation window 203, it can be ensured that the filter plate 205 does not unnecessarily cover any of the field of view that would otherwise be available for the detection chan nels. The thickness of the filter plate 205 may be in the order of a millimeter or even less, so the use of a filter plate does not increase the overall distance between the X-ray tube and the sample to any signifi cant extent .

Another feature that is shown in figs. 2 and 3 is a calibrator plate 305 that can be controllably and selectively brought into a position in which it is on the path of the incident X-rays 206 and in a field of view of the detection channels that are used to re ceive the fluorescent X-rays 207. A calibrator plate 305 has a very exactly known composition, so it can be used to calibrate the detection channels from time to time. If the calibration process should be automa tized, the X-ray fluorescence analyzer may be equipped with an actuator that is configured to controllably move the calibrator plate 305 between at least two po sitions, one of which is the position shown in fig. 3 and the other is a position that is not on the path of the incident X-rays 206.

Fig. 4 illustrates an example of an X-ray fluorescence analyzer according to an embodiment of the invention. It comprises an analyzer body 401 that acts as the basic support and protective structure. The front wall 303 of the analyzer body is visible on the left in fig. 4. As explained earlier with refer ence to figs. 2 and 3, there is an opening in the front wall 303 for the incident X-rays generated by an X-ray tube 402 to pass through. A holder 403 is pro vided for holding the slurry handling unit 201 against an outer side of the front wall 303, aligned with said opening in the front wall 303.

In an advantageous embodiment the holder 403 may be configured to hold the slurry handling unit 201 removably against the front wall. The holder 403 may comprise for example hinges that allow turning the slurry handling unit 201 to the side, or a bayonet mount that allows quickly detaching the slurry han dling unit 201 from the front wall 303, so that the window foils described above with reference to figs. 2 and 3 are exposed. This allows relatively straightfor ward inspecting and servicing of those parts that are critical for the propagation of both the incident X- rays and fluorescent X-rays. The solid particles in the slurry may cause significant wear to the inside of the window foil 302 of the sample window 301 (see fig. 3) , so it is advantageous to equip the sample window 301 with a mechanism that allows replacing the window foil 302 when necessary.

A portion of the X-ray fluorescence analyzer that is marked with a dashed rectangle 404 in fig. 4 is shown from the direction of the optical axis of the X-ray tube 402 in fig. 5. This illustration shows an example of how an actuator 501 can be provided for controllably moving the calibrator plate 305 between the two positions. In the first position, which is shown in fig. 5, the calibrator plate 305 is not on the path of the incident X-rays that come out of the radiation window 203 of the X-ray tube. In the second position the calibrator plate 305 would be essentially concentric with the radiation window 203 in fig. 5.

Figs. 4 and 5 also show how one or more de tection channels 502 may be provided. The structure and operation of a detection channel will be described in more detail later in this text. Figs. 4 and 5 il lustrate a positioning principle, according to which each of the detection channels is located at a respec tive rotation angle around the optical axis of the X- ray tube 402. When the optical axis of the X-ray tube 402 is perpendicular against the planar surface of the sample (which is defined by the sample window that is a part of the slurry handling unit 201), this way of placing the detection channels allows arranging an ex actly equal field of view for all detection channels.

Other features shown in fig. 4 are the provi sion of electronics boxes 405, 406, and 407 inside the analyzer body 401 for each of the detection channels and for the X-ray tube 402, as well as the provision of a cooling water circulation 408 for the X-ray tube 402.

Fig. 6 is a schematic illustration of certain parts of what was called a detection channel above. Major features of the detection channel of fig. 6 are a crystal diffractor 601 and a radiation detector 602. As its name indicates, the crystal diffractor 601 com prises a crystal 603, which may be called the diffrac tor crystal or just crystal for short. The crystal 603 is the wavelength-dispersive component of the crystal diffractor 601. A first slit 604 may be provided on a first optical path 605 between the slurry handling unit (not shown in fig. 6) and the crystal 603, and a second slit 606 may be provided on a second optical path 607 between the crystal 603 and the radiation de tector 602. Since the diffractive properties of the crystal 603 for X-rays are highly dependent on wave length of the X-rays, this kind of an arrangement can be used to separate a particular wavelength range from that portion of the fluorescent X-rays that were orig inally emitted into that direction in which this par ticular crystal diffractor is located. Reference des ignator 608 illustrates a casing that encloses the crystal diffractor 601, offering structural support for all of its components.

Fig. 7 illustrates an example of a crystal diffractor in an axonometric projection. The crystal diffractor is thought to be located in a first direc tion from a slurry handling unit (not shown in fig. 7), so that the first optical path 605 represents the nominal direction of that portion of fluorescent X- rays that are received in this crystal diffractor. The first 604 and second 606 slits are formed between the respective limiter pieces, and the second optical path 607 represents the nominal direction of the diffracted fluorescent X-rays that are directed to the radiation detector (not shown in fig. 7) . The crystal diffractor is enclosed in a casing 608 delimited by a first pla nar surface 701 and a second planar surface 702 that is parallel to said first planar surface 701.

The mechanical structure described here is advantageous, because the planar surfaces 701 and 702 offer a support to which the internal parts of the crystal diffractor can be attached in a relatively simple way.

Diffraction of X-rays in a crystal is gov erned by Bragg' s law, which ties the diffraction angle to the distance between reticular planes. Conventional crystal diffractors have used crystals of e.g. silicon dioxide, lithium fluoride, ammonium dihydrogen phos phate, or potassium hydrogen phthalate, because suffi- ciently large monocrystalline pieces of these materi als can be manufactured relatively easily at the re quired accuracy in the desired shapes. However, it has been found that while the wavelength selectivity of such conventional crystals is relatively good, the ef ficiency at which incoming X-rays are diffracted is relatively poor.

Pyrolytic graphite is an alternative material for producing the crystal for a crystal diffractor. Pyrolytic graphite is a general term that refers to materials that were manufactured from organic com pounds containing planar structures like benzene rings, by subjecting them to high temperatures, caus ing essentially only the carbon atoms of the structure to remain. The original planar molecular structures cause the pyrolytic graphite to exhibit a highly or dered microscopic structure, for which reason it is often referred to as HOPG (highly oriented pyrolytic graphite) or HAPG, in which the latter refers to a slightly different method of synthesizing the materi al. Pyrolytic graphite is often not monocrystalline in the same sense as the more conventional crystal mate rials mentioned above, but polycrystalline. In order to maintain consistency with the established wording on this technical field it is nevertheless practical to refer to the diffractor element made of pyrolytic graphite as the "crystal". In the following descrip tion the term "HOPG crystal" will be used.

The efficiency of a HOPG crystal as a dif fractor of fluorescent X-rays has been found to be significantly better than that of the conventional ma terials of diffractor crystals. In other words, a sig nificantly higher proportion of X-rays that hit a HOPG crystal are actually diffracted than with the conven tional crystal materials. However, the polycrystalline nature of pyrolytic graphite means that not all retic ular planes are as exactly oriented as in e.g. mono- crystalline silicone dioxide. This in turn means that the wavelength selectivity of a HOPG crystal in a crystal diffractor is not very exact: fluorescent X- rays that get diffracted into a particular direction represent a range of wavelengths around the nominal wavelength that according to Bragg' s law would be dif fracted into that direction, and this range is signif icantly wider than in X-rays diffracted by the conven tional crystal materials.

The less accurate wavelength selectivity of the HOPG crystal is not, however, a serious drawback because it can be balanced with other factors in the design of the X-ray fluorescence analyzer. One possi ble approach is to use a solid-state semiconductor de tector as the radiation detector 602 to which the flu orescent X-rays in the separated wavelength range are directed from the HOPG crystal. The radiation detector 602 may be for example a PIN diode detector, a silicon drift detector, a germanium detector, or a germanium drift detector. Contrary to for example gas-filled proportional counters, the energy resolution of solid- state semiconductor detectors can be made more accu rate. It is customary to express the energy resolution of a detector of X-rays at a reference energy of 5.9 keV. A solid-state semiconductor detector of the kind mentioned above may have an energy resolution better than 300 eV at said reference energy of 5.9 keV.

Combining the use of a HOPG crystal in the crystal diffractor 601 to the use of a solid-state semiconductor detector as the radiation detector 602 may result in an advantageous situation in which the crystal diffractor 601 is configured to separate a predefined first wavelength range from fluorescent X- rays 207 that propagate into the direction at which the crystal diffractor 601 is located (with reference to the slurry handling unit 201) , and configured to direct the fluorescent X-rays in the separated prede- fined first wavelength range to the radiation detector 602 that is a solid-state semiconductor detector. The good energy resolution of the solid-state semiconduc tor detector is then used to produce a measurement re sult that indicates an energy spectrum of the fluores cent X-rays in the separated predefined first wave length range. From said energy spectrum, and possibly using other measurements as support, the amount of fluorescent X-rays from the element of interest can be determined with relatively good accuracy.

The geometrical form of the diffractive sur face of the HOPG crystal is another factor to consider in the design of the X-ray fluorescence analyzer. Fig. 8 illustrates some examples of geometrical forms. Here it may be noted that exactly speaking the "crystal" is only a thin layer of crystalline (monocrystalline, as in the case of silicon dioxide for example, or poly crystalline, as in the case of HOPG, for example) ma terial that constitutes the actual diffractive sur face. The crystal diffractor comprises a substrate to which the crystalline material is attached. Examples of substrate materials are for example glass and alu minum, but the substrate material could also be iron or any other such material that is not prone to caus ing unwanted, interfering fluorescent radiation by it self. The crystalline material may be attached to an appropriately formed surface of the substrate through for example Van der Waals forces. Alternatively the crystalline material could be grown directly upon the appropriately formed surface of the substrate, or some other suitable attachment method like glue could be used .

Together the substrate and the crystalline material constitute a three-dimensional entity, and examples of these entities are seen in fig. 8. In or der to maintain consistency with the established par lance on this technical field, these entities are called crystals in this text despite of the slight in accuracy of this term that is explained above. The term diffractive surface refers to the external, ex posed surface of the crystalline material at which the diffraction of X-rays takes place; strictly speaking the diffraction of X-rays takes place at the reticular planes inside the crystalline material close to the surface that is here called the diffractive surface.

A feature common to crystal 603, crystal 802, and 804 in fig. 8 is that a three-dimensional geomet rical shape of the entity constituted by the HOPG crystal and the substrate is that of a prism, one side face of which is cut away by the curved diffractive surface. The imaginary form of the prism is shown with dashed lines in the upper-line illustrations of these three crystals.

The lower-line illustrations of the same crystals in fig. 8 shows how the way in which the dif fractive surface is curved is different in all three cases. In crystal 603 the diffractive surface 801 is curved in one direction (longitudinal direction) only. In other words, if an imaginary transverse line was drawn across the diffractive surface 801 at any loca tion, like the dashed line shown in fig. 8 for exam ple, it would always be straight. A particular ad vantage of this kind of a crystal is that it is rela tively easy to manufacture. Comparing to figs. 6 and 7 it can be seen that the radius of curvature of the diffractive surface 801 lies in a plane defined by the first 605 and second 606 optical paths. This plane is also parallel to the planar surfaces 701 and 702.

In crystal 802 the diffractive surface 803 is curved in two directions (longitudinal and trans verse) , forming a part of a toroidal surface. This means that if a transverse arc was drawn across the diffractive surface 803 at any location, like the two dashed arcs shown in fig. 8 for example, each of these transverse arcs would be identical to each other. Alt hough this geometrical form may be somewhat more com plicated to manufacture at the required accuracy than that of surface 801 on the left, it involves the ad vantage that it focuses the diffracted X-rays more ac curately.

In crystal 804 the diffractive surface 805 is curved in two directions (longitudinal and trans verse) , but in a different way than surface 803 in the middle. The diffractive surface 805 forms a part of a rotationally symmetric surface, the rotational axis 806 of which is in the plane defined by the optical paths of the incoming and diffracted X-rays. This means that if a transverse arc was drawn across the diffractive surface 805, like the dashed arc in fig. 8 for example, the radius of curvature of such a trans verse arc would be different depending on at which longitudinal location it was drawn. In fig. 8 it can be seen that the dashed arc in the middle is not as pronouncedly curved as the arc-formed edges seen at the ends of the crystal 804. This is because the dashed arc is located further away from the rotational axis 806 than the arc-formed edges at the ends of the crystal .

Mathematically speaking, a rotationally sym metric surface is formed when a continuous curve is rotated about the rotational axis. The form of said continuous curve defines, how far from the rotational axis each point of the surface will be, and what prop erties the surface may have. One example of a curve that could be used to form the diffractive surface 805 in fig. 8 is a section of a logarithmic spiral. Alt hough this kind of a surface is more complicated to manufacture than those introduced above as surfaces 801 and 803, a rotationally symmetric surface made with a section of a logarithmic spiral involves the inherent advantage that it provides very accurate fo cusing of diffracted X-rays.

A feature that is common to all diffractive surfaces 801, 803, and 805 in fig. 8 is that in topo logical sense they are simply connected surfaces. A simply connected surface is one that is path-connected (i.e. any two points on the surface can be connected with a path that belongs wholly to said surface) , and additionally any loop-formed path can be continuously contracted to a point so that also all intermediate forms of the contracted loop belong wholly to said surface .

An intuitive description of a simply connect ed surface is that it does not have holes. As such, it could be possible to drill a small hole through any of the diffractive surfaces 801, 803, or 805 in fig. 8 without changing their properties as diffractors more than just by decreasing the surface area by the amount that was drilled away. For this reason it is defined here that the requirement of the surface being simply connected in topological sense is to be interpreted to concern the general form of the surface: under such an interpretation a small hole in the surface does not yet mean that it would not be simply connected. Anoth er definition of how the requirement of being simply connected should be interpreted is as follows: if the crystal is "lying on its side" as in fig. 8 (i.e. a main radius of curvature, which defines the longitudi nal curvature between the ends of the crystal, is in a horizontal plane; so that the diffractive surface is generally vertically oriented) , any imaginary horizon tal line would pierce the diffractive surface at one point at the most. A surface is a simply connected if it fits at least one of these intuitive descriptions.

On the right in fig. 8 a crystal 807 is shown as a comparative example. The diffractive surface 808 of the crystal 807 is curved in two directions (longi- tudinal and transverse) , forming a complete rotation- ally symmetric surface, the rotational axis 809 of which could be in a plane defined by the optical axes of the incoming and diffracted X-rays. The curve, the rotation of which about the rotational axis 809 de fined the form of the diffractive surface 808, may be for example a section of a logarithmic spiral. It is obvious that the diffractive surface 808 is not simply connected in topological sense, because no closed curve that circumnavigates the bore of the surface can be contracted to a point. Crystals of this kind are relatively complicated to manufacture, but they can be used, together with suitable shields (not shown in fig. 8) that block the propagation of direct, not dif fracted X-rays, to collect fluorescent radiation from a larger spatial angle than those with a simply con nected surface like 801, 803, or 805.

The geometric shape and the resulting optical properties of the diffractive surface may have an ef fect on how other parts of the crystal diffractor should be designed. Above it was explained how the crystal diffractor 601 may comprise a first slit 604 on the first optical path 605 between the slurry han dling unit 201 and the (pyrolytic graphite) crystal, and how there is the second optical path 607 between the (pyrolytic graphite) crystal and the radiation de tector 602. If the diffractive surface 801 of said (pyrolytic graphite) crystal 603 is curved in one di rection only, with a radius of curvature in a plane defined by said first 605 and second 607 optical paths, it is advantageous to make said first slit 604 a linear slit oriented perpendicular against said plane, like in fig. 7. If the diffractive surface 803 of said (pyrolytic graphite) crystal 802 is curved in two directions, forming a part of a toroidal surface, it is advantageous to make said first slit a curved slit with a radius of curvature oriented perpendicular against said first optical path. If the diffractive surface 805 of said (pyrolytic graphite) crystal 804 is curved in two directions, forming a part of a rota- tionally symmetric surface, the rotational axis 806 of which is in the plane defined by said first and second optical paths, it is advantageous to make said first slit point-like.

If a second slit 606 is used on the second optical path 607, similar considerations may apply. However, it should be noted that the second slit is not always necessary: its use is related to attenuat ing background and scattered radiation particularly with diffractor crystals that are highly wavelength- selective. Taken that the wavelength selectivity of a HOPG is not that high, the additional advantage gained with a second slit is relatively small.

If a second slit is used on the second opti cal path 607 between the (pyrolytic graphite) crystal 603, 802, 804 and the first radiation detector, the geometry of the crystal diffractor may follow for ex ample the principle of a Johann geometry or a Johans son geometry. These are illustrated in figs. 9 and 10 respectively. In fig. 9 a center point 902 of said diffractive surface, said first slit 604, and said second slit 606 are located on a Rowland circle the radius of which is R. A radius of curvature of said diffractive surface in the plane defined by said first and second optical paths is 2R, and a radius of curva ture of reticular planes 901 in said crystal is 2R. This means that the first crystal diffractor has a Jo hann geometry. In fig. 10 a center point 1002 of said diffractive surface, said first slit 604, and said second slit 606 are similarly located on a Rowland circle the radius of which is R. However, here a radi us of curvature of said diffractive surface in the plane defined by said first and second optical paths is R, and the radius of curvature of reticular planes 1001 in said crystal is 2R, so that the first crystal diffractor has a Johansson geometry.

In order to maintain a compact size of the crystal diffractor it is advantageous if the magnitude of R can be kept relatively small. As an example, R may be at most 40 centimeters.

Figs. 11 to 14 are schematic illustrations of spectra of fluorescent X-rays in certain cases. The spectra are typically expressed as detected counts at each photon energy. In practice the detector that pro duces the counts has a certain energy resolution that defines, how close to each other the energies of two photons may be so that the detector is capable of pro ducing two different kinds of output signals. Signal processing is used to classify the received X-ray pho tons into energy bins of finite width, and the counts are given per energy bin. The more accurate the detec tor resolution, the narrower (in terms of energy units) the energy bins can be made.

In fig. 11 the graph 1101 is smooth without any visible peaks or spectral holes. Such a spectrum is rarely obtained in practice, but it illustrates a situation in which only background and randomly scat tered radiation is received, without any characteris tic peaks of elements of interest. In fig. 12 the graph 1201 is otherwise the same, but there is a char acteristic peak 1202 of an element of interest. The problem is that the concentration of the element of interest in the measured sample is so small that the height of the characteristic peak 1202 is low with re spect to the general level of the spectrum at the same energy range. Thus even if a relatively large number of photons are observed in that energy range, rela tively few of them are actually fluorescent photons from the element of interest.

The energy of a photon is inversely propor tional to its wavelength, so when the wavelength se- lectivity of various diffractive crystals has been considered above, energy selectivity could be consid ered quite as well. Fig. 13 illustrates schematically what the radiation detector of a crystal diffractor equipped with a HOPG crystal could receive. The energy range 1301 of fluorescent X-rays that the HOPG crystal would direct to said radiation detector is relatively wide, which is a direct result of the relatively mod est wavelength selectivity of the HOPG crystal. At the same time, however, the diffraction efficiency of the HOPG crystal is relatively good. Thus the radiation detector would receive a significant proportion of the photons falling within the two hatched areas in fig. 13. Of these, the photons belonging to the first hatched area 1302 are background and scattered pho tons, while the photons belonging to the second hatched area 1303 are actual fluorescent photons from the element of interest.

Fig. 14 illustrates schematically what the radiation detector of a crystal diffractor equipped with a silicon dioxide (or other conventional) crystal could receive in the same situation. The energy range 1401 of fluorescent X-rays that the conventional crys tal would direct to its radiation detector is rela tively narrow, which is a direct result of the rela tively good wavelength selectivity of the conventional crystal. At the same time, however, the diffraction efficiency of the conventional crystal is lower than that of a HOPG crystal. Thus the radiation detector would only receive a limited proportion of the photons that actually originated from the element of interest in the sample (see hatched area 1303 in fig. 13) . The small peak 1402 in fig. 14 represents these fluores cent X-rays, which will actually be detected in this case .

One factor to consider in the design of the X-ray fluorescence analyzer is the possibility to use differently equipped detection channels. Here "differ ently equipped" means primarily the selection of the diffractor crystal and the selection of the radiation detector .

Fig. 15 illustrates schematically how an in dustrial X-ray fluorescence analyzer for analyzing samples of slurry may comprise a plurality of detec tion channels. The detection channels are shown in a straight line in fig. 15 because the representation is schematic. In practice they could be located for exam ple in a rotationally symmetric manner around the X- ray tube like in figs. 4 and 5, each with a field of view directed towards the slurry handling unit of the X-ray fluorescence analyzer.

The X-ray fluorescence analyzer comprises a first crystal diffractor 1501 located in a first di rection from said slurry handling unit, said first crystal diffractor 1501 comprising a first crystal. A first radiation detector 1505 is configured to detect fluorescent X-rays diffracted by said first crystal 1502 at a first energy resolution. The X-ray fluores cence analyzer comprises a second crystal diffractor 1511 located in a second direction from said slurry handling unit, said second crystal diffractor compris ing a second crystal 1512. A second radiation detector 1515 is configured to detect fluorescent X-rays dif fracted by said second crystal 1512 as a second energy resolution .

As a first assumption it may be assumed that the first crystal 1502 is a pyrolytic graphite (HOPG) crystal, and said second crystal 1512 is of a material other than pyrolytic graphite, like silicon dioxide, lithium fluoride, ammonium dihydrogen phosphate, or potassium hydrogen phthalate. Also as a first assump tion it may be assumed that the first and second crys tal diffractors are configured to direct to their re spective radiation detectors characteristic fluores- cent radiation of a same element. In other words, the two detection channels are equipped differently, but they both aim at detecting the presence and concentra tion of the same element in the sample of slurry.

As such, configuring a crystal diffractor to direct to its radiation detector characteristic fluo rescent radiation of a particular element is typically done by 1) selecting a crystal with a particular dis tance between its reticular planes, 2) selecting the curvature of the crystal and the reticular planes, and 3) selecting the angle and distance values of the crystal and the slit(s) so that X-rays of just a par ticular wavelength range will reach the detector, said particular wavelength range including the desired characteristic peak of the element of interest. The element of interest may have several characteristic peaks, so saying that the two detection channels are configured for measuring characteristic fluorescent radiation of the same element does not necessarily mean that they would be configured for measuring the same characteristic peak, although that is not exclud ed either.

If the two detection channels are configured for measuring the same characteristic peak, the meas urement results they produce may resemble those in figs. 13 (for the channel with the HOPG crystal) and 14 (for the channel with the other crystal) . The task of finding out the actual concentration of the element of interest may be described in the form of a method, for example as follows.

The method is aimed at performing X-ray fluo rescence analysis, and comprises irradiating a sample of slurry with incident X-rays and receiving fluores cent X-rays from the irradiated sample. Due to the measurement geometry, a first portion of the fluores cent X-rays will be directed to the first detection channel, and a second portion of the fluorescent X- rays will be directed to the second detection channel. The method comprises separating first 1301 and second 1401 predefined wavelength ranges from respective first and second portions of said received fluorescent X-rays with respective first 1501 and second 1511 crystal diffractors. Said first wavelength range 1301 and said second wavelength range 1401 both include characteristic fluorescent radiation of a same ele ment. Additionally said first wavelength range 1301 is at least twice as wide as said second wavelength range 1401.

The method comprises detecting the fluores cent X-rays in said first and second separated wave length ranges with respective first 1505 and second 1515 radiation detectors. The energy resolution of said first radiation detector 1505 is better than 300 eV at a reference energy of 5.9 keV. Thus the method comprises producing respective first and second detec tion results. The method comprises calculating a con centration of said element in said sample from at least one of said first and second detection results.

Here "at least one" emphasizes the fact that not all detection results are best dealt with in equal manner. Very much depends on the sample. In some sam ples the concentration of the element of interest may be relatively large, resulting in a relatively large number of detected fluorescent photons even in the second radiation detector 1515 despite the modest dif fraction efficiency of the second crystal 1512. In some other case the concentration of the element of interest may be so small that only a very small and vague peak is visible within the second wavelength range 1401. In some cases the first wavelength range 1301 may appears to be relatively clean from any in terfering radiation, while some other sample may con tains significant amounts of some other element, the characteristic peak of which is so close that it comes visible and even dominant in the first wavelength range 1301 but not in the second wavelength range 1401.

In general the calculating may comprise cal culating a combined intensity of background radiation and fluorescent X-rays from others than said element using at least one of the first and second detection results. The method may then comprise subtracting, from the total intensity detected in a wavelength range containing said characteristic peak of fluores cent X-rays of an element to be measured in said sam ple, the calculated combined intensity of background radiation and fluorescent X-rays from other elements than said element of interest in said sample. The method may then comprise providing the result of said subtracting as the calculated intensity of said char acteristic fluorescent X-ray peak.

The calculating may comprise analyzing from said first and second detection results whether the influence of a characteristic peak from another ele ment on the first detection result is larger than a predetermined threshold. If said analyzing shows that the influence of said characteristic peak from said other element on the first detection result is larger than said predetermined threshold, the method may com prise calculating said concentration of said element in said sample from said second detection result. If, on the other hand, said analyzing shows that the in fluence of said characteristic peak from said other element on the first detection result is not larger than said predetermined threshold, the method may com prise calculating said concentration of said element in said sample from said first detection result.

Another possibility is to form specific mod els for each measurement channel per sample line, us ing calibration samples. The measurement channel to be used for the actual measurements of that sample line is then selected on the basis of which of them gives the most accurate calibration.

The element of interest may be gold, because gold is valuable and because reasonably effective methods exist for extracting it even from flows of slurry where it appears in very low concentrations. There are other elements, interfering characteristic peaks of which may or may not be present and may ap pear very close to one of gold. If significant amounts of such interfering elements are present in the sam ple, the detection channel with the HOPG crystal may give relatively inaccurate and unreliable results, at least if used alone.

Intermediate forms of these two extreme cases can be presented, in which the contribution of the first and second detection results are taken into ac count in various ways. The decision about which calcu lating method is selected can be made for example with an artificial intelligence algorithm that compares the first and second detection results to previously ob tained comparable results and to some kind of evalua tion data about how the various available calculation methods performed with said comparable results.

Fig. 16 illustrates schematically a fluores cent X-ray spectrum that comprises two clear peaks 1601 and 1602. In such case the selected calculation method may depend on whether the peaks 1601 and 1602 both are characteristic peaks of the same element of interest, or whether one of them is a characteristic peak of some interfering element. The smaller peaks closer to the energy axis represent the estimated de tection result that a detection channel equipped with a conventional (for example silicon dioxide) crystal would produce of these two peaks.

An interesting case is one where the peaks 1601 and 1602 both are peaks of the element of inter est. Particularly interesting is if that one of them (here: peak 1601) is more intense, for the measuring of which the Si02-equipped detection channel is con figured. In such a case the best features of both channels may come into use: the accurate wavelength selectivity of the silicon dioxide crystal can be used to separate a tightly defined wavelength range 1401 that only includes the desired characteristic peak, so that the relatively large intensity of that peak still gives a sufficient number of counts in the correspond ing detector in a relatively short time. At the same time the good diffraction efficiency of the HOPG crys tal can be used to separate a wider wavelength range 1301 that includes the other, lower characteristic peak. The concentration of the element of interest can be calculated from the detection results given by the two detectors, when the overall performance of the two detection channels is known from calibration measure ments .

A method of the kind described above may be applicable in many cases where the characteristic flu orescent radiation comprises a K- or L-peak of an ele ment with 30 £ Z £ 92, where Z is the atomic number of said element. The flexible adaptability of the method suits well for measuring samples that comprise one or more elements of interest within a matrix consisting of primarily elements with Z £ 8, where Z is the atom ic number. This is the case of water-based slurries, for example.

The principles that have been discussed above concerning the use of two detection channels can be generalized to concern the use of three or more detec tion channels. The form factor of the detection chan nel that has been described above, i.e. the one in which each crystal diffractor 601 is enclosed in a casing delimited by a first planar surface 701 and a second planar surface 702 that is parallel to said first planar surface 701, enables distributing a plu- rality of detection channels as "cassettes" for exam ple in a rotationally symmetric formation around the X-ray tube. Detection results from detection channels configured to detect characteristic fluorescent radia tion of a same element can be combined in various ways as described above. The large number of detection channels allows calculating the concentrations of two or more elements of interest in the sample simultane ously, if the detection channels are configured to measure the characteristic fluorescent radiation of such two or more elements of interest. Cross- correlating the detection results from channels con figured to detect different elements is also possible. For example if one element has two characteristic peaks, one of which is measured with a dedicated first detection channel while the other comes close to the characteristic peak of the other element of interest, the detection results from the first channel may be used to correct the detection results from that chan nel that is configured to measure the characteristic peak of the other element.

One factor to consider in the design of an industrial X-ray fluorescence analyzer for analyzing samples of slurry is the power of the X-ray tube, and the geometry and dimensioning of the area between the X-ray tube and the slurry handling unit.

Fig. 17 illustrate the possibility of using so-called transmission geometry. The radiation window 203 of an X-ray tube is visible on the right in fig. 17, and incident X-rays are emitted in the direction of the optical axis 204 through a primary filter plate 205. The slurry handling unit 201 comprises a chamber 1701 with an output slit 1702, from which the sample 202 flows out in a curtain-like form and falls down wards under the influence of gravity. The incident X- rays generate fluorescent X-rays in the relatively thin sheet of falling slurry. Reference designator 1703 points at fluorescent X-rays that are directed obliquely backwards, and that can be detected with de tection channels (not shown in fig. 17) placed much like in the geometries described earlier with refer ence to figs. 2, 3, 4, and 5. Reference designator

1704 points at fluorescent X-rays that are directed to other directions, particularly to directions that are on the other side of the sample flow. These can be de tected with detection channels (not shown in fig. 17) placed on that side. This may be a particularly advan tageous way of placing detection channels, because they can get a better field of view and consequently a better spatial efficiency of collecting fluorescent X- rays . This may also help to bring the X-ray tube very close to the sample. It has to be noted, though, that proper radiation shielding geometrical precautions must be taken in order to prevent any of the incident X-rays from entering the detection channels.

Fig. 18 is a partial cross section of the output portion of an X-ray tube 402. The X-ray tube comprises an anode 1801 for generating the incident X- rays . The incident X-rays will be emitted in the di rection of the optical axis 204 towards the sample 202, which here is shown only schematically without the slurry handling unit for reasons of graphical clarity. It is nevertheless assumed that the slurry handling unit is configured to maintain a planar sur face 1802 of the sample 202 of slurry on a side facing the X-ray tube 402. As explained earlier, this can be accomplished for example by providing a sample window with a window foil made of a material that is trans parent to X-rays. The sample window may be provided in a wall of a sample chamber, for allowing X-rays to pass through while keeping the sample of slurry within the sample chamber.

Other parts of the X-ray tube that are sche matically shown in fig. 18 are the circulation 1803 of cooling water, the ring-shaped cathode 1804 for emit ting the accelerated electrons, and the radiation win dow 203.

When the aim is to produce so much fluores cent radiation that even very small concentrations of elements of interest could be detected, it is advanta geous if as many photons (of sufficient energy) of the incident radiation as possible can be made to hit the sample 202. One way of achieving this is to have a very powerful X-ray tube. According to an embodiment the input power rating of the X-ray tube 402 is at least 400 watts. Even more powerful X-ray tubes can be used: according to other embodiments the input power rating of the X-ray tube 402 may be at least 1 kilo watt, or at least 2 kilowatts, or even at least 4 kil owatts. Even if only a fraction of the power that is announced as the input power rating of the X-ray tube will eventually come out in the form of generated in cident X-rays, the input power rating is nevertheless an important indicator of the capability of the X-ray tube of producing an intense flux of incident X-rays.

Using X-ray tubes with higher power ratings than earlier means that radiation shielding must be reconsidered with respect to previously known, lower- powered X-ray sources. According to an embodiment, thicker radiation shielding plates and denser radia tion shielding materials may be used to ensure that ionizing radiation does not leak into areas where it could be hazardous.

Another way of ensuring a very intense flux of incident X-rays hitting the sample 202 is to make the distance between the anode 1801 and the sample 202 as small as possible. The slurry handling unit may be configured to maintain a shortest linear distance d between the anode 1801 and the sample 202, so that d is shorter than 50 mm. In another embodiment d may be shorter than 40 mm. In another embodiment d may be shorter than 30 mm.

It must be noted, however, that generally the closer the anode 1801 of the X-ray tube 402 is brought to the sample 202, the larger spatial angle around the sample 202 is blocked by the structures of the X-ray tube. This is an important factor to consider, because the structures of the X-ray tube 402 may block the field of view of the detection channels. One way to mitigate this problem is to use an X-ray tube of the so-called end window type, and not an X-ray tube of the side window type. Figs. 18 and 19 can be consid ered to illustrate the use of an X-ray tube of the end window type. In an X-ray tube of this kind the radia tion window 203 is generally at one end of a generally tubular structure, which leaves relatively much free space around said tubular structure for placing the detection channels. Another possibility would be to use an X-ray tube of the side window type, and to place the detection channels on one or two sides of the X-ray tube.

In all figures described so far, the optical path between the X-ray tube 402 and the sample 202 is also direct, which means that there are no diffractors therebetween. This is another way of ensuring that a maximum number of incident X-ray photons may hit the sample. First, the provision of a diffractor there between would inevitably mean a longer distance be tween the anode 1801 and the sample 202, because some space would need to be reserved for the diffractor. Second, the mere nature of a diffractor is to separate only a certain wavelength range from the original ra diation spectrum, which would necessarily mean fewer incident X-ray photons hitting the sample. Other ad vantageous consequences of not using any so-called primary diffractor between the X-ray tube 402 and the sample 202 are the simultaneous provision of incident X-rays for exciting the characteristic peaks of a num ber of elements in the sample and that less structural parts are there that could block the field of view of the detection channels.

In fig. 18 the optical axis 204 of the X-ray tube 402 is perpendicular against the planar surface 1802 of the sample 202. While this arrangement pro vides for excellent rotational symmetry for detection channels placed around the X-ray tube 402, it is not the only possibility. Fig. 19 illustrates an alterna tive embodiment, in which the optical axis 204 of the X-ray tube 402 is at an oblique angle against said planar surface. Such an arrangement may help to make the shortest linear distance d between the anode 1801 and the sample 202 even shorter, while simultaneously leaving sufficiently free field of view for detection channels on at least some sides of the X-ray tube 402. This principle is elaborated upon further in the fol lowing with reference to figs. 20 and 21.

Fig. 20 shows an X-ray tube 402 and five de tection channels seen from the direction of the sam ple. The radiation window 203 of the X-ray tube 402 is visible in the middle of the drawing. The entry window of each detection channel for receiving fluorescent radiation is located in the proximal end face of the respective crystal diffractor; entry window 2001 is shown as an example. For the purpose of making as large proportion as possible of the generated fluores cent radiation enter a detection channel, it is advan tageous to place these entry windows as close as pos sible to the sample, and also so that the entry window sees the sample surface in as large spatial angle as possible. Each of the plurality of crystal diffractors is located at a respective rotation angle around the optical axis of the X-ray tube 402. Each of said crys tal diffractors is configured to separate a predefined wavelength range from fluorescent X-rays that propa- gate into the respective direction, and configured to direct the fluorescent X-rays in the respective sepa rated predefined first wavelength range to a respec tive radiation detector.

Fig. 21 shows an X-ray tube 402 and two de tection channels seen from the side. The sample window 301 is schematically shown in fig. 21: this illus trates the area where the slurry handling unit is con figured to maintain a planar surface of the sample of slurry on a side facing the X-ray tube 402. Thus this is the area that should be within the field of view of the X-ray tube 402 in order to make the incident X- rays hit the sample. This illustrates also the area that should cover as large spatial angle as possible in the field of view of the detection channels, in or der to collect as much fluorescent X-rays as possible.

The optical axis 204 of the X-ray tube 402 is at an oblique angle against said planar surface. A first crystal diffractor 1501 is located at that rota tional angle around said optical axis 204 at which said planar surface of said sample covers the largest portion of a field of view of the first crystal dif fractor 1501. Assuming that no other structures block any part of the available field of view, in practice this means that the first crystal diffractor 1501 is located opposite to the X-ray tube, i.e. in the direc tion to which an imaginary light beam along the opti cal axis 204 would reflect if the sample surface was a mirror .

A second crystal diffractor 1511 is located at another rotational angle around said optical axis 204. In fig. 21 the second crystal diffractor 1511 is located at what could be described as the worst possi ble rotational angle, because its view of the sample surface is limited by that edge of the X-ray tube 402 that comes closes to the sample window 301. If said other rotational angle differs by less than 180 de- grees from that in which the first crystal diffractor 1501 is located, the second crystal diffractor 1511 could be located more like one of the plurality of other crystal diffractors in fig. 20. In such a case the planar surface of the sample at the sample window 301 would cover a portion of the field of view of the second crystal diffractor 1511 that was between the two extremes shown in fig. 21.

According to an embodiment, the first crystal diffractor 1501 that is placed at the optimal rota tional angle (in terms of field of view) in figs. 20 and 21 is the one in which the diffractor crystal is a HOPG crystal and the radiation detector is a solid- state semiconductor detector. Taken the good diffrac tion efficiency of the HOPG crystal, such placing of the first crystal diffractor helps to ensure that a maximum number of fluorescent X-ray photons will even tually reach the detector. If there is some advance knowledge about the assumed levels of concentrations of various elements in the samples to be measured, it may be advantageous to place that crystal diffractor to the most optimal rotational angle that is config ured to separate and direct to its respective detector the characteristic fluorescent radiation of that ele ment of interest that is expected to have the smallest concentrations .

One factor to consider in the design of an industrial X-ray fluorescence analyzer for analyzing samples of slurry is the selection of radiation detec tors in those channels that have diffractor crystals of other materials than pyrolytic graphite. The wave length selectivity of conventional diffractor crystal materials such as silicon dioxide is relatively good, which can be interpreted so that there is not as much need for accurate energy resolution in the radiation detector as if a HOPG crystal was used. A gas-filled proportional counter may provide quite satisfactory detection results in a detection channel that has oth er than HOPG as the diffractor crystal, at an advanta geously lower manufacturing cost than a solid-state semiconductor detector.

However, nothing in the foregoing should be interpreted against choosing a solid-state semiconduc tor detector also for detection channels that have other than HOPG as the diffractor crystal. Similarly it is not a mandatory requirement to use a solid-state semiconductor detector in the detection channel equipped with a HOPG crystal, if the energy resolution of another type of radiation detector is found to be sufficient .

Figs. 22 to 25 illustrate calibration meas urements, in which the vertical axis represents con centrations measured with one detection channel of a tested apparatus, which was an industrial X-ray fluo rescence analyzer for analyzing samples of slurry ac cording to an embodiment. The horizontal axis repre sents concentrations in the same samples but measured for prolonged periods with laboratory grade equipment, in order to as accurate and reliable results as possi ble. For the laboratory measurements the samples of slurry were dried and homogenized, and the amount of removed water was compensated for through calculation, in order to make the laboratory measurements compara ble with the industrial-type measurements. If a cali bration measurement of this kind shows the points set tling along a straight line, the two different appa ratuses give highly matching results, which means that the tested apparatus is very accurate. Deviations from a straight line show that the tested apparatus produc es inaccurate results.

The scales are arbitrary, but the scales in figs. 22 and 23 are the same, and the scales in figs. 24 and 25 are the same. The element of interest was gold in all measurements. Figs. 22 and 23 represent measurements of samples in which the concentration of an interfering element was below 300 ppm, while the measurements of figs. 24 and 25 its concentration var ied between 0 and 2 %. An interfering element is one that has a characteristic fluorescent peak close to at least one characteristic fluorescent peak of the ele ment of interest.

Figs. 22 and 24 represent cases in which the measurement with the tested apparatus was made using a detection channel that had a silicon dioxide crystal in the crystal diffractor and a gas-filled proportion al counter as the radiation detector. Figs. 23 and 25 represent cases in which the measurement with the tested apparatus was made using a detection channel that had a HOPG crystal in the crystal diffractor and a solid-state semiconductor detector as the radiation detector .

A comparison of figs. 22 and 23 shows that when the concentration of an interfering element is small, the detection channel with a HOPG crystal and a solid-state semiconductor detector gives more accurate detection results than the detection channel with a silicon dioxide crystal and a gas-filled proportional counter. The average error between concentrations measured with the HOPG channel of the tested apparatus and those measured in laboratory was +/- 0.24 ppm, while the comparable average error with a silicon di oxide crystal and a gas-filled proportional counter was +/- 0.56 ppm.

A comparison of figs. 24 and 25 shows that when the concentration of an interfering element is significant, the detection channel with a HOPG crystal and a solid-state semiconductor detector gives less accurate detection results than the detection channel with a silicon dioxide crystal and a gas-filled pro portional counter. The average error between concen trations measured with the HOPG channel of the tested apparatus and those measured in laboratory was +/- 1.62 ppm, while the comparable average error with a silicon dioxide crystal and a gas-filled proportional counter was +/- 0.42 ppm.

The results shown in figs. 22 to 25 can be utilized in many ways. For example, the industrial X- ray fluorescence analyzer for analyzing samples of slurry may be equipped with first, second, and third detection channels, of which the first and second de tection channels are both equipped with crystal dif- fractors configured to separate and direct to their respective detectors characteristic fluorescent X-rays of the same element, like gold. The first detection channel may be one with a HOPG crystal and a solid- state semiconductor detector, and the second detection channel may be one with a silicon dioxide crystal and a gas-filled proportional counter. The third detection channel may be equipped with a crystal diffractor con figured to separate and direct to its respective de tector characteristic fluorescent X-rays of an inter fering element. The detection results of all three de tection channels can be then analyzed. If the detec tion results produced by the third detection channel show there to be a significant concentration of the interfering element in the sample, the calculation of the concentration of gold would emphasize more (or even use exclusively) the detection results of the second detection channel. Correspondingly if the de tection results produced by the third detection chan nel show there to be only an insignificant concentra tion of the interfering element in the sample, the calculation of the concentration of gold would empha size more (or even use exclusively) the detection re sults of the first detection channel.

Many advantageous features of the industrial X-ray fluorescence analyzer for analyzing samples of slurry have been described above. In the end they all serve a common purpose, which is to make reliable measurements of even very small concentrations of ele ments of interest in slurries of various kinds, at reasonable cost and under the harsh conditions that an industrial environment may place: short measurement times; extreme temperatures; frequent occurrence of humidity, dust, and dirt; long intervals between ser vicing; and the like. The advantageous features may be combined with each other in numerous ways, so that the most advantageous combination may depend on a particu lar case and its specific boundary conditions.

It is obvious to a person skilled in the art that with the advancement of technology, the basic idea of the invention may be implemented in various ways. The invention and its embodiments are thus not limited to the examples described above, instead they may vary within the scope of the claims. As an exam ple, even of gold has been frequently mentioned above as a typical element of interest, the same principles are applicable also to measurements of other elements of interest. Examples of such other elements of inter est are for example copper, silver, metals of the platinum group, and uranium.