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Analysis of Cement

Analysis of Cement​
The chemical composition of cement is vital in determining its properties as a binding material. The cement industry widely uses chemical analysis of its components for production optimization and to ensure high-quality products. The high standards for cement quality stem from its extensive use in the production of concrete, the most commonly used material in the construction industry.

The Components of Cement Production

Cement materials are divided into two categories based on their hardening type. Hydraulic cement, which is the most common type of cement used in the industry, requires the addition of water for hardening. Generally, hydraulic cement is made of a mixture of oxides and silicates. The manufacturing process of cement consists of several stages. In the first stage, the raw materials are crushed into a powder and mixed. In the second stage, the mixture is heated in special furnaces at high temperatures. During the firing process, calcium carbonate decomposes into calcium oxide and carbon dioxide, and clay is also present. Calcium oxide reacts with the clay components at high temperatures, producing silicates, aluminosilicates, calcium aluminates, and other components. The resulting product of the firing process is called clinker. In the third stage, the clinker is ground with gypsum in mills that contain steel balls.

Hydraulic cement is produced as a result of the grinding process, which yields gray-green powder. Non-hydraulic cement is the second, less common type of cement. Slaked lime (a mixture of calcium oxide and water) is the typical representative of non-hydraulic cement, which hardens by carbonation through carbon dioxide from the air. In cement production, low-temperature melting clays, argillites, and shales are used as part of the cement mixture. Carbonate rocks, such as limestone and clay, are the raw materials for cement production, and they are mixed in a specific ratio (75-80% limestone and 20-25% clay). The chemical composition of cement determines its properties and area of application. Cement testers determine the 13 oxides and their ratio (CaO, SiO2, Al2O3, FeO, SO3, MgO, NaO, KO, PO5, TiO2, MnO, ZnO, and SrO) through element analysis, allowing for precise control over the quality of cement production.


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ProSpector 2

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ElvaX Pro

The most powerful XRF spectrometer in the ElvaX family for the most complicated analytical applications

How XRF Analysis is Utilized in Cement Plants?

Cement quality and properties are closely linked to the composition of mineral substances present, but analyzing mineral composition accurately can be challenging. Elemental analysis, on the other hand, is easier to perform, and the ratios of oxides present in a sample can be used to estimate its mineral composition.

There are various spectroscopy methods available for elemental analysis of cement, such as atomic, Raman, gravimetry, X-ray photoelectron, and inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy. However, most of these methods require additional steps or can be destructive and expensive.

Quantitative X-ray diffraction analysis is commonly used in many cement plants to determine the clinker phase composition. However, this method neglects the structural degradation of certain weak or cleavable mineral phases, such as gypsum, anhydrite, or calcite during measurement.

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis is a universal method for elemental analysis that is simple, relatively inexpensive, and provides fast and accurate results. Consequently, it is the most convenient and suitable elemental analysis method for the cement industry.

XRF analysis is routinely used in cement plants for controlling the composition of raw materials, raw feed, clinker, and finished cement. This method provides rapid compositional data for controlling almost all stages of production and is also used for assessing and quality control of the final product.

Improving Cement Production with XRF Analysis

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis is a powerful tool that can significantly enhance the cement production process. With its ability to rapidly and accurately analyze the chemical composition of cement samples without causing any damage, XRF has proven to be an indispensable asset at every stage of production. From evaluating raw materials at the quarry to assessing intermediate and final products, XRF analysis ensures that cement meets required standards and boosts overall productivity. The method involves irradiating a cement sample with X-rays, which excites the atoms in the sample. As the excited atoms return to their ground state, they emit electromagnetic waves that can be detected and used to precisely determine the chemical composition of the sample.

Which Cement Analyzer is Better: Benchtop or Handheld?

Elvatech offers a range of XRF spectrometers for cement analysis, including both benchtop and handheld models that are ASTM C114 and ISO 29581 certified. The latest models are ElvaX Pro and ProSpector 3.

The ElvaX Pro benchtop spectrometer is an energy-dispersive x-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) analyzer that can detect elements from Na to U. It is used for qualitative and quantitative analysis of cement samples’ elemental composition, and features a helium purge system, automatic primary filter changer, and large area SDD detector. It also has a 16-position automatic sample changer, which can increase productivity, and a low maintenance cost.

On the other hand, the ProSpector 3 handheld spectrometer is the smallest and lightest XRF analyzer available, making it highly portable and easy to use on different stages of cement production. It features a dustproof and waterproof instrument body, two CCD cameras, and radiation protection. The device is highly mobile, with autonomous operation on a single battery charge for up to 16 hours, and it offers data transfer capabilities via USB, WiFi, or Bluetooth.

Both the ElvaX Pro and ProSpector 3 provide highly precise measurements, using Elvatech’s Dynamically Adaptive Shaping DPP with fast SDD detectors. These analyzers can operate long-term without re-calibration, using a digital-ray source digiX-50 and automatic calibration of thermodynamic parameters. The software interfaces for both devices are intuitive and user-friendly.

Ultimately, the choice between a benchtop or handheld analyzer depends on the specific needs and preferences of the user. The ElvaX Pro may be more suitable for those who need higher sample throughput and want to analyze larger samples, while the ProSpector 3 may be preferred by those who need a highly portable and versatile device.

Sample preparation for cement XRF Analysis

Sample preparation is crucial for accurate results in cement XRF analysis, which is fast, simple, convenient, and non-destructive. There are two methods for sample preparation: making fused glass beads or pressed pellets using specialized equipment. Nowadays, glass bead technology is preferred for cement analysis because it provides a much easier way to obtain referenceable calibration standards.
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