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Research Article

Received: 18 August 2009 Accepted: 28 August 2009 Published online in Wiley Interscience: 14 October 2009

( DOI 10.1002/xrs.1214

Detection of minerals by scattered x-ray

B. I. Kitov and Yu. S. Mukhachev
A new procedure of detecting minerals by their scattered x-ray radiation has been developed. The paper presents a methodology
of calculating conditions in which analytical signals of minerals with different compositions differ from each other considerably.
The scattered x-ray radiation of the mineral is registered against the background of scattered radiation from an additional
screen made of a material with a low atomic number. The screen is set up behind the mineral in such a way that the minerals
x-ray shadow falls on it, on the way of primary radiations spreading.
It has been experimentally shown that the suggested method allows to separate natural diamonds from their accompanying
minerals with a high precision. Copyright  c 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Introduction The solution to this problem was found in the coal industry.[3]
It was offered to separate coal and barrel rocks by their scattered
The x-ray absorption method of ores concentration,[1] which x-ray radiation (Fig. 2b). The radiation of the x-ray tube passes
is a variety of the x-ray absorption method of the analysis of through the rubber conveyor belt shown by the dotted line, then
substances,[2] is based upon the differences in the attenuation of it is scattered in a lump of coal and falls on the detector. As it
x-ray radiation by minerals. The layout of equipment for the use of follows from Fig. 2b, the scattered radiation is only taken from the
this method is given in Fig. 1. part of the lump of coal that rises above a partition which serves
Grains of minerals are automatically delivered to the radiation to protect the detector against the direct rays of the x-ray tube.
zone at a timespace distance from each other. A detector registers This scheme turned out to be not so good for the separation
of diamond-containing ores. The small size of the minerals grains
the intensity of radiation that has penetrated through the grains.
required to fix them strictly in relation to the partition which
The detectors signal is compared with the given signals threshold
drastically reduced the separations productivity.
value and if a grain of the useful mineral is detected, a command
The aim of this work was to find an x-ray absorption method that
is given to the actuating mechanism to extract the mineral from
would allow to detect diamonds among particles of accompanying
the stream of grains.
minerals in their free fall through an x-ray flux. In this, the flight
The x-ray absorption method is only effective if the useful
path of the particles, their size and shape need not be controlled.
mineral (let us denote it as ) and the accompanying minerals (let
us denote them as ) are considerably different in their average
atomic numbers. This method can be used for the enrichment
of diamond-containing mixtures of minerals because diamonds Theory
have a lower atomic number in comparison with most of their
The flaws of the above-mentioned method can be eliminated if
accompanying minerals.
we change the scheme of the device and register the radiation
The device of a Belgian company Constructions Electriques de
scattered at some angle (Fig. 3). Although the fluxes scattered
Charleroi[1] was one of the first in which the x-ray absorption
by different sections of the sample will fall onto the detector at
method of diamonds a () separation was used. The core
different angles, we will take this angle as a constant in our further
element of the device is shown on Fig. 2a. The lump material
calculations. It is justified by small sizes of the particles.
was transported by a special drum which had conical holes on its
Besides, let us consider the primary radiation to be a
surface. Separate grains of minerals were pneumatically sucked to
monochromatic one with the wavelength .
them. The detectors were inside the drum and the x-ray tube was
In the device on Fig. 3 the direct flux of x-ray radiation never
outside it. As the drum rotated each hole with a grain in it passed gets to the detector. At the same time a small size () of useful
through the x-ray flux. particles allows the scattered radiation to pass through the object
The operation of this device revealed the key problem of the in the direction of the detector. And vice versa, the scattered
x-ray absorption method of separation, which is the necessity radiation that originated in the accompanying particles with a
to provide the measurement conditions in which the grain of a big () will be absorbed by themselves and will not reach the
mineral would fully block the whole flux of radiation going from
the x-ray tube to the detector.
Besides, a high transparency of mineral s grains with a low

mass coefficient of attenuation of radiation with the wavelength Correspondence to: B. I. Kitov, Irkutsk State Railway Transport University, 15,
Chernischevski St., Irkutsk, 664074, Russia. E-mail: lkitova@
did not allow to detect the mineral among the particles
of accompanying minerals with a higher mass coefficient of Irkutsk State Railway Transport University, 15, Chernischevski St., Irkutsk,

attenuation (). 664074, Russia

X-Ray Spectrom. 2010, 39, 3236 Copyright 

c 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Detection of minerals by scattered x-ray radiation

d N


X-ray tube

Slot dx

Figure 1. Device registering the direct radiation flux.


X-Ray tube Figure 4. Scheme for the calculation of scattering by an object with a small
attenuation coefficient of low-angle scatterings intensity.

(a) (b)
the scheme from Fig. 4 to calculate the signal from the radiation
scattered by the screen.
If S is the cross-section of the primary x-ray radiation which has
the intensity I0 , then the energy of radiation absorbed in the layer
dx equals:
dEx = SI0 ()e()x dx. (1)
Detector X-Ray tube Here () is the mass coefficient of the primary radiations
attenuation by the screen; is the specific density of the screens
Figure 2. Schemes of minerals separation by absorbed (a) and dispersed material.
x-ray radiation (b). The energy of radiation scattered by the layer dx in the direction
and spreading at the spatial angle  will equal:

Detector d ( ) ()x (s ) d x
dEx = SI0  e e cos dx. (2)
1 d

1 Here d ( ) is the differential coefficient of scattering of radiation

2 with the wavelength .
Let us take that the mass coefficients of attenuation of the
3 primary and the scattered radiation by the substance of the screen
are equal: () = (S ). If we integrate (2) by the samples depth
Slot Screen
from 0 to d we will get the energy value E of the x-ray radiation
scattered by the open screen at the angle . Some of the photons
of this radiation will be registered by the detector which will form
Figure 3. Components of dispersed radiation. the signal N proportional to the energy

() d
detector. It allows to differentiate the particles of the type from d ( ) e()d e cos
the particles of the type . N = kE = I0 kS

. (3)
d 1
Besides, the detection of the particles of the type by the device ()( 1)
based on the scheme from Fig. 3 is done in a more advantageous
positive regime as the actuating mechanism reacts only when Here k is the instrumental constant.
useful particles appear. Such particles are much fewer than the Let us call the signal of the open screen N the reference signal.
particles of the type , and thus the dead time of the actuating Let us introduce the following denotation for shortage:
mechanism will be shorter. Consequently the number of particles
not extracted from the stream of material will be lower. N = SW, (4)
A screen that is semi-transparent in x-ray fluxes is added to the
scheme on Fig. 3. It acts as a regulator of the detector signals where
value. () d
d ( ) e()d e cos
Let us show that it is possible to reach the statistically perceptible W = I0 k . (5)
difference of signals from particles and by choosing the surface d 1
()( 1)
density, atomic number, the density and thickness of the screen. cos
If there are no particles in the irradiation zone then primary If a particle appears before the screen (Fig. 3), the primary
radiation is scattered on the semi-transparent screen and is then radiation breaks into three fluxes going to the detector. Flux 1 is

registered by the detector as the reference signal. Let us use the radiation scattered on the particle at the angle 1 ; flux 2 is the

X-Ray Spectrom. 2010, 39, 3236 Copyright 

c 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
B.I. Kitov and Yu. S. Mukhachev

radiation that has become attenuated, passed through the particle N

and then got scattered on the screen at the angle ; flux 3 is the
primary radiation that passed by the particle and got scattered by
the atoms of the screen at the angle . 1
As the particles are detected in the dynamic regime when they
pass the irradiation zone in free fall, the energy of scattered x-ray
radiation depends on the time. Let us take the maximum value of x
the signal for the analytical signal of the particle. In that case, the
particle either fully emerges in the primary flux or fully blocks it.
We could use the same Eqns (4) and (5) to estimate the signal d
from the particle which, just like the screen, scatters radiation
Figure 5. Scheme for the calculation of scattering by the upper surface of
with its whole volume. Let us take that the particle has a particle.
parallelepiped form with the frontal surface area S , thickness
d and density . Let us also denote the mass coefficients of
the primary radiations attenuation of particles and as ()
It follows out of (10) that N will exceed the reference signal N
and () correspondingly, and the coefficients of this radiations
if the following condition is observed:
scattering as and , correspondingly.
Let us take, just as it was done in the derivation of Eqn (3), that
the mass coefficients of the radiations attenuation by particles W > W(1 e () d ). (11)
and equal the mass coefficients of the primary radiations
attenuation, i.e. they equal () and () correspondingly. It is easy to observe this condition as it follows from Eqn (5) that
Besides, it is necessary to substitute the angle for the angle 1 in it is possible to decrease W by decreasing the thickness of the
Eqn (5) because the radiation scattered by the particle goes to the screen d.
detector at this angle 1 . The situation will be the opposite for the particle with a bigger
The signal of the first flux of radiation from the particle will (), than that of particle . Then fluxes 1 and 2 will weaken
equal: and it could be expected that R < 0. The sign of the impulse
N1 = S W , (6) component of the detectors signal will be the differentiating
feature for particles of and types: particles will give the plus
e () d signal, and particles the minus sign.
d ( ) e cos 1 () cosd However this differentiating feature could lead to the wrong
where W = I0 k 1
1 e 1
result if some particle is a plate (Fig. 5), whose upper surface
()( 1) accidentally happens to be situated at a small angle to the direction
cos 1
We will get the signal of the detector from flux 2 out of Eqn (4) of the primary radiations spreading. In this case flux 1 in Fig. 3
if we take that the area of the shaded part of the screen is S and could be so strong that the full signal from the particle will exceed
consider the absorption of radiation by the particle : the reference signal N. It will become impossible to differentiate
the particles.
N2 = S We () d . (7) Let us view this case in more detail. The scheme of the device
shown in Fig. 3 gives us an opportunity to control the reference
We will get the signal of the detector from flux 3 out of Eqn (4) if signal. Let us find the thickness d of the screen at which the impulse
we consider that the area of the open part of the primary radiation components of the signal R and R will have the opposite signs.
fluxs cross-section equals (S S ): Let us take that the radiations incidence and outlet angles are
same and equal 1 /2. If the irradiated surface area is S , then the
scattering at the angle 1 by the layer with the infinitely small
N3 = (S S ) W. (8)
thickness dx which is situated at the depth x, equals:

By adding up Eqns (6), (7) and (8) we will get the cumulative
d (1 )
signal from the radiation scattered by the particle and from the 1
dPx = S I0 
radiation scattered by the shadowed and the open parts of the x x
() () x
screen: e sin 1 /2 e sin 1 /2 e() cos dx
N = N1 + N2 + N3 = S (W + We () d )
+ (S S )W. (9)
We do not consider here the case when the primary radiation
penetrates the particle through its upper surface, and the scattered
Let us subtract the reference signal (4) from the Eqn (9): radiation gets out through its side surface. It is explained by the
fact that such a path will lead to a strong attenuation of scattered
R = N N = S [W W(1 e () d )]. (10) radiation for the particle and besides, only a small portion of
radiation will take such a path for thin plates.
As the device shown in Fig. 3 operates in the dynamic The last exponent in Eqn (12) takes into account the attenuation
measurement regime when the detectors signal increases from by the screen of the primary radiation scattered by the particle.
the reference signal N to N and then decreases to N, then R is If we allow that the wavelengths of the primary and the scattered

the impulse component of the signal. radiation coincide then after integration we will get the value of Copyright 
c 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. X-Ray Spectrom. 2010, 39, 3236
Detection of minerals by scattered x-ray radiation

the detectors signal formed by the first flux: Impulsive

N1 = S W , (13) compound


2 ()
d (1 ) 1 e sin(1 /2) () d
W = I0 k e cos 1 .
d 2 ()
sin(1 /2)
(14) Thickness, cm
flux N1
The signal of the first that originated from scattering on
the particle is weaker than that from scattering on the particle .
The signal of the second flux N2 will also weaken as the surface
of the screen situated behind the heavy particle will be irradiated
by a weak flux of the direct beam. The shaded portion of the screen
will also be smaller as the surface of the particle is tilted at the
angle 1 :
N2 = S sin 1 We () d . (15)
Taking into consideration that the area of the primary x-ray
radiation fluxs cross-section not covered by the particle equals Figure 6. Impulsive compounds of diamond (R ) and calcite (R ) signals.
S S sin 1 , we get the signal from flux 3:
As the size and shape of the measured particles are random
N3 = (S S sin 1 )W. (16)
it is not possible to make a precise engineer calculation of the
device. That is why the approximate character of calculations was
Adding up the Eqns (13), (15) and (16) we get N = N1 +N2 +N3 . compensated by the further experimental tuning of the devices
If we subtract N from this value, we will find the impulse component parameters. That is why the calculation was made for the case of
of the signal for the particle : monochromatic primary radiation and the experiment was carried
   out with the polychromatic radiation.
R = N N = S W W sin 1 1 e () d . (17) The experiment was performed on the device with an x-ray
tube that had a molybdenum anode and the capacity of 20 W, a
Equations (10) and (17) allow to make a computer model of collimator and a slot that formed the x-ray radiations flux with the
the physics of the process in which signals are formed from cross-section 20 1 mm. The x-ray tubes voltage was 32 keV. The
the particles of various compositions and sizes at different thickness of the flat cellulose screen was chosen experimentally
instrumental parameters. and equaled 2 mm. A scintillation counter based on the crystal
NaI(Tl) acted as a detector of scattered radiation. The detectors
window diameter was 40 mm. The surface of the crystal was
Experiment protected by a light-reflecting layer.
The device was supplemented with a unit that delivered material
Figure 6 contains the graphs that show how R and R depend to the irradiation zone and a mechanical unit that separated
on thickness d of the semi-transparent cellulose screen. We took diamonds from the stream of particles crossing the irradiation
the diamond for the particle and the calcite for the particle . zone in their free fall. The trajectories of the particles fall were
The primary x-ray radiation was taken to be the monochromatic random and were located at 510 mm distance from the screen.
radiation with the wavelength MoK1,2 line. The separation unit operated only if there appeared a positive
The size of the particles varied from 2 to 5 mm. The scattering impulse component of the detectors signal, which means if there
angle 1 equaled 45 , angle equaled 50 . The mass coefficient fell a diamond. Such additions made the device a working model
of photoelectric attenuation were taken from publication,[4] the of the diamonds separator.
mass coefficients of scattering were taken from Hubbel et al.[5] The material for separation was a mechanical mixture of 90
The results of calculations showed that it is possible to crystals of diamonds and 20 kg of milled limestone. The size of
differentiate the particles if screen thicknesses are within the range particles was within the range of 28 mm.
1 mm < d < 11 mm. If the thicknesses of the screen are small, As a result of multiple tests the average separation of diamonds
then the impulse components of the signals from the diamond from the mixture was 9899%. Most errors in diamond detection
and the calcite are positive. If the thicknesses are big, then they were connected with the electromechanical actuating mechanism.
are negative, and they only have different signs within the given The tests also revealed the drawback of this method its low
range. It is d > 1 mm and d < 11 mm. productivity because the particles are delivered to the irradiation
It would be most advantageous for electronics to use the zone one by one. That is why it is recommended to use this method
thickness exactly equal to the lower limit of the range. Then the on the final stages of the concentration process when a small
appearance of calcite in the irradiation zone of the device will not quantity of concentrate is processed. To increase the productivity
lead to the signal and will not, consequently, lead to the loss of of separation it is necessary to search for new schemes of devices
time by the registering scheme on closing the transient processes that would allow for a large number of particles in the irradiation

after the passage of a single electric impulse. zone simultaneously.

X-Ray Spectrom. 2010, 39, 3236 Copyright 

c 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
B.I. Kitov and Yu. S. Mukhachev

Conclusions [2] M. A. Blokhin, Methods of X-Ray Spectroscopic Research, Pergamon

Press: Oxford, 1965, pp 448.
The registration of scattered x-ray radiation against the back- [3] A. S. SSSR, # 988377 L. P. Starchik, Yu. I. Gorlov, V. T. Tzoraev,
ground of an additional screen made of a material with a low Yu. V. Gorlov. Equipment for Material Pieces Separation. Moscow,
cl.(3) V 07 S 5/34, published.15.01.83.
atomic number allows to effectively separate the particles of [4] J. H. Hubbel, S. M. Seltzer, NISTIR 5632.US Department of Commerce.
material that differ by the effective atomic number in the auto- NISTIR. Center for Radiation, Galthersburg, MD 20899, 1995, 111.
matic regime; for example, it allows us to organize the process of [5] J. H. Hubbel, Wm. J. Weigele, E. A. Briggs, R. T. Brown, D. T. Cromtr,
separation of diamonds from barrel rock particles. R. J. Howerton, J. Phys. Chem. Ref. Data 1975, 34, 471.

[1] O. S. Bogdanov (Chief Editor), Reference Book of Ores Concentration,
vol. 2, Nedra: Moscow, 1974, pp 452.
36 Copyright 
c 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. X-Ray Spectrom. 2010, 39, 3236