Handheld XRF vs. Nitric Acid

Handheld XRF is a fast, non-destructive and accurate method for sorting alloys.  Separating alloys has been an important challenge in the last century.  From insuring alloys are not mixed up for safety and compliance purposes such as API RP 578, to increasing the value of scrap material.  The need to be able to identify the grade and composition of the material is critical.  The acid test, or nitric acid reaction, can be performed for qualitative analysis.  For dependable quantitative analysis for separating alloys, the quickest, most reliable method is handheld XRF.  Talk to our experts about XRF guns for sorting alloys with handheld XRF now!

Nitric acid testing was initially designed as a quick, qualitative test to sort grades of stainless steel material although some grades of stainless steel cannot be separated with this technique.  This includes but is not limited to separation of 304 from 321.  There are reagent tests that can be used in conjunction with nitric acid testing to narrow down and help to separate grades of stainless steel.  Identifying if the material is magnetic is another way of assisting in determining the grade.  There are spot tests for Mo (molybdenum) which can help separate 304 from 316.  A drop of solution is placed on the material as well as known 304 and known 316 stainless.  If the test drop darkens, it confirms a significant amount of Mo is contained in the alloy.

Clearly, there are some limitations with these processes which in the end only provide at best, qualitative results that are user subjective and may not be very accurate.  In order to accurately separate stainless steels and other alloys, a faster, cleaner, more reliable technique to use is handheld XRF.  Below are some of the advantages of using handheld XRF analyzers to separate stainless steels:

  • Minimal preparation required – clean surface
  • No hazardous chemicals involved
  • 3-5 second separation of stainless steels and other alloys
  • Quantification as well as qualification of stainless steel – grade identification as well as elemental composition is obtained
  • Faster – more material can be identified in a shorter period of time
Sorting scrap with the S1 TITAN handheld XRF gun


  • SDD (Silicon Drift Detector) Based Handheld XRF – 5 Times as Fast as Previous Generation Instruments
  • Lower Limits of Detection
  • Analyze Light Elements Without the Need for Vacuum or Helium Environment

For fast, reliable identification of stainless steels and other alloys, choose one our purpose built S1 TITAN handheld XRF analyzer. Designed for ease of use, you can be separating stainless steels and much more in 15 minutes. Contact us now for an instant quote!

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