Petroleum refineries widely use fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) as a conversion process. This chemical process uses “a catalyst and heat to break long-chain hydrocarbons into smaller-chain hydrocarbons“, thus transforming them into valuable gasoline, distillate, butane and propane fuels1. Catalysts are sand-like solid materials that can be analyzed by XRF to precisely determine the components in FCC as well as resolve any catalyst-killing elements such as Ni in used catalyst.

Why is it more relevant to use fusion to prepare catalyst samples for XRF analysis?

Users are often faced with a dilemma in preparing their samples for X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis. Should they use pressed pellets or glass disks? Common assumptions are that pressed powders are cheaper and easier than the glass disks method. However, these assumptions about pressed powder analyses are often not experienced as assumed when the total analytical process is reviewed.

According to Stephen Williams, Senior XRF application specialist at Malvern Panalytical, “when high-quality analysis is required, there are many benefits of using fusion that can easily surpass the overall cheaper and easier method”. The expert also states that “precision and accuracy studies show the improvement with the fused samples compared to pressed pellets. These improvements derive from better management of matrix effects, superior calibration strategies and include less opportunities for human error. Human error is a very significant issue especially when large numbers of samples are being processed”.

A growing need for automation

High-throughput labs (processing more than 50 samples per day) now have a greater need for automation of fusion. In addition to labor productivity, fusion automation further eliminates human error such as weighing with greater improvements in analysis quality.

Albemarle, a global specialty chemicals company with leading positions in lithium, bromine, and refining catalysts, used Malvern Panalytical’s automation solution to maximize productivity, improve analytical results and process priority samples. They expect a fast return on investment since automation will reduce the costs of manpower and improve the analytical quality of their XRF results.

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[1] “Industrial: Refining: Fluidized Catalytic Cracking.” Citation Machine: Modern Language Association 8th Edition Format Citation Generator for Journal Article, Maverick Engineering