PIXE Analysis of Automobile Paint Layers

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Paul DeYoung, Hope College
Dr. Graham Peaslee, Hope College

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Publication Date



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant No. PHY-0969058.


The current process for elemental analysis of multi-layered paint samples is both destructive and very time consuming. The layers must be mechanically separated and then chemically dissolved, destroying the sample in the process. Particle Induced X-ray Emission (PIXE) uses a particle accelerator to analyze the composition of a sample based on emitted x-rays. Differential PIXE is a technique used to analyze multi-layered samples without destroying them. Differential PIXE varies the incident beam energy to penetrate into selective layers of the sample, thus only emitting x-rays from the layers that the beam passes through. However, depending on the thickness of the layers, the beam may not penetrate all of the paint layers. The use of a microtome is a semi-destructive method for analysis of the paint layers. Post separation, the layers would be run in PIXE, and no more damage would be done to the sample. The peak-fitting program GeoPIXE allows for analysis of multi-layered samples while accounting for the thickness of the layers, a factor that other programs do not consider. Analysis of the paint layers and perfection of the methods for preparation of the samples is still ongoing.

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