Knowledge center

Back to overview
January 15 - January 26

Understanding XRF spectrometry


The Department of Geological Sciences (University of Cape Town, South Africa) will host a summer course for industry, research, and academia on the theory and practice of XRF spectrometry from 15 to 26 January 2018. Initiated by Emeritus Prof. James Willis, and now organized hosted by UCT in association with PANalytical B.V., this course presents the principles and practice of XRF analysis. The emphasis will be on the application of the technique to geological materials, but applications in the cement, metals and other industries and in environmental analysis will also be discussed.

Lectures will be given mostly by Dr. B.A.R. Vrebos on both wavelength and energy dispersive XRF spectrometry. There will be practical exercises that will include an introduction to modern wavelength and energy dispersive XRF spectrometers, and a practical introduction to the various procedures necessary for successful major and trace element calibrations and data reduction for both techniques. Participants will carry out tutorial calculations on test data sets to familiarize themselves with the procedures involved. They will receive a comprehensive set of course materials, including “Understanding XRF Spectrometry” (a two-volume book by James Willis and Andrew Duncan published in 2008 by PANalytical B.V.) together with lecture handouts, notes and other useful documentation. As always, the contents of the course and its presentation will be vendor neutral. It is NOT a course on the instrumentation or software of any particular vendor.

Participants completing the course should be in a strong position to successfully carry out XRFS analysis on any vendor’s machine. A certificate of attendance will be issued.

Course structure

The course is divided into two distinct parts:
The first week comprises an introduction to the fundamentals of XRFS, qualitative analysis, selection and setting of instrumental parameters, matrix effects and how to deal with them, counting statistics, sampling procedures, sample preparation and an introduction to quantitative XRFS analysis;
The second week covers in detail quantitative analysis for both major and trace elements, background and spectral overlap corrections, standardization, absorption and enhancement problems and corrections, influence (alpha) coefficient corrections, commercial and manufacturer’s software for correcting for inter-element matrix effects, special sample preparation techniques, analysis of small samples and solutions, and different applications of XRFS.

Each week can be attended separately, BUT persons attending the second week on quantitative analysis MUST have attended previously the introductory first week, although not necessarily in the same year. This is a very full, very intensive course containing an enormous amount of detail and building very rapidly on itself. For participants with little theoretical or practical knowledge of XRFS, it is strongly recommended that only the introductory week be attended in the first year. After gaining a year's experience in the laboratory and building on the knowledge gained from the first week, such participants will be in a much stronger position to extract the maximum advantage from the second week of the course. It is strongly recommended that in their second year, such participants should attend the full two-week course in order to reinforce their basic knowledge and thus gain the greatest benefit from the full course. All previous participants who have adopted this approach have found it to be extremely valuable and beneficial.


Morning sessions:
08h15 to 10h15
10h15 to 10h45 break
10h45 to 12h30

12h30 to 13h30 - lunch

Afternoon sessions:
13h30 to 15h10
15h10 to 15h30 - break
15h30 to 17h00

There will be short open-book 15 minute revision tests each day, starting on day 2, and a 1-hour test on the last day of Week 1. The same will apply to Week 2.
The first week of the course ends at ~16h30 on Friday 19 January.
The second week at ~15h00 on Friday 26 January 2018.
Participants should try to avoid booking return flights leaving Cape Town before 18h00!

Each participant receives course material in full color amounting to more than 500 pages per week. Leave space in your luggage to carry it all (up to 5 kg for two weeks!).

Course fee

The fee for the full two-week course is ZAR 19,000.00, and ZAR 11,000.00 for one week only, excluding accommodation and meals, PAYMENT IN ADVANCE.
All cancellations received after 1 December 2017 will be liable to a cancellation
fee of ZAR 3400.00 to defray expenses and to cover costs of course materials ordered earlier from overseas.

Members of staff or registered full-time students from any South African or SADEC educational institution can apply for a reduction in the course fee.
Members of SASS, GSSA, or SACI will get a 5% discount on the course fees; this is not cumulative with other reductions in course fee.


Most hotels close to the university have now closed. The City Lodge (on the N2 near Pinelands) and the Breakwater Lodge (Waterfront) are cheaper than most. However, all the hotels are expensive in January as it is the height of the tourist season, and a car would be required to get to the University, adding to the hotel cost. There are many B&Bs available relatively close to UCT. Try Google using “Cape+Town+accommodation”.
Lunch is available on campus. An evening meal at a very reasonable price will be available at the UCT Club on the upper campus. Alternatively, there is a very wide choice of restaurants located close by and all over the peninsula.

Participants are responsible for making their own arrangements, and paying separately, for accommodation.

Registration for course

If you would like to attend the course, please complete the registration form below. Submission of the form need not be accompanied by the registration fee and places you under no obligation to attend. It does allow us to assess probable attendance at the course. Your registration for the course will be confirmed by letter at the end of November, at which time we would expect a final decision from you and you will be invoiced for the registration fee, WHICH MUST BE PAID BEFORE THE COURSE BEGINS.

Registrations should be submitted on or before 24 November 2017 to provide adequate time for course materials to be ordered and delivered from overseas.

Participants from outside South Africa who may require visas should be sure to apply well in advance.

  • Understanding XRF spectrometry
  • University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • 15 January 2018, 08:15 - 26 January 2018, 15:00
  • UTC+02:00 Europe/Amsterdam

Share this article