Sunday, June 27, 2021

The Sericho Pallasite Meteorite - XRF Analysis

I obtained 2 fragments of the Sericho Pallasite Meteorite, "discovered" in Habaswein, Eastern Kenya in 2016. 
The meteorite has been known to local populations for many years but it wasn't until 2016 when the meteorite was officially classified as such. This was a huge meteorite - so far 2.8t were recovered.

A highly sculpted complete fragment of the Sericho meteorite. This specimen exhibits the "classic" meteorite look and the fragment is complete, not cut from a larger piece.

The second specimen is an end-cut piece from a larger fragment. It exhibits the typical "fusion crust" from the entry in Earth's atmosphere. 

The back side of the second piece with straight polished cut reveals the pallasite nature of the meteorite and a structure of olivine crystals.

The XRF Analysis setup - the polished cut of the meteorite is exposed to the 59.54 keV X-Ray source and the X-Ray detector. I placed the source a bit further away decreasing the intensity in order to eliminate parasitic peaks coming from Np, Au and Ag in the source itself. The weaker beam resulted in a long acquisition time - nearly 6 hours but produced a fairly clean spectrum.

XRF analysis plot.
As it turns out from an XRF point of view, much like most other meteorites, Sericho is typical and quite boring - no exotic metals are present - just Iron, Nickel and traces of Cobalt and Chromium.
The plot prominently features the Kα1 and Kβ1 peaks of Iron and smaller peaks of Nickel. Cobalt is in very low concentration (0.8%) and masked but if one looks for it, it can be seen in the irregular shape of the base (on the right side) of the Ni Kα1 photopeak. The Ni Kα1 at 7.48 keV is too close to the 7.65 keV of the Kβ1 of Cobalt just at the edge of the detector resolution. The 6.93 keV Kα1 line of the Co is dominated by the Kβ1 Fe at 7.06 keV and can not be differentiated. Chromium can not be detected at all with my setup due to the trace amounts (0.03%)

My XRF Setup - Part 3 - Exciter

(work in progress)

The exciter is the second main component of an XRF setup - this is the source of the primary X-Rays.

Two type of Exciters are generally used - X-Ray tube or Radioactive Isotope.

X-Ray tubes 


- provide high-intensity beam

- low limit of element detection

- easy on/off capabilities 

- excellent results


 -  big, heavy, very delicate

- require additional cooling

- large, hazardous HV power supplies

- need for safety interlock systems

- heavy beam collimators

- Not as portable

Radioactive Isotope source 


- smaller, lighter and simple

- 100% reliable

- very portable for field use


- low intensity beam requires long acquisition times

- shielding is required as well a shutter-type on/off system

- highly regulated

- danger of contamination if source is damaged

 The holder of the exciter was designed with TinkerCAD and 3D printed