Edited by Stephen J. Mraz

Engineers at Thermo Electron Co., Waltham, Mass. (thermo.com), have built a portable X-ray fluorescence analyzer, the Niton XRF, that can reveal the elemental makeup of an object by analyzing the unique characteristic X-rays it emits after being bombarded with X-rays. The Niton rapidly detects elements and their relative concentrations. The device will not work on lighter elements (low Z elements) that generate spectral energies below 2.5 Kev, as these are absorbed by the air. To use Niton on lightweight elements, users need a helium gas purge or a lab instrument with a vacuum chamber.