For research and development or for solving technical problems, we often need to know the chemical composition of an unknown mixture, which is coded and stored in the signals of its X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and X-ray diffraction (XRD). X-ray fluorescence gives chemical elements, whereas XRD gives chemical compounds. The major problem in XRF and XRD analyses is the complex matrix effect. The conventional technique to deal with the matrix effect is to construct empirical calibration lines with standards for each element or compound sought, which is tedious and time-consuming. A unified theory of quantitative XRF analysis is presented here. The idea is to cancel the matrix effect mathematically. It turns out that the decoding equation for quantitative XRF analysis is identical to that for quantitative XRD analysis although the physics of XRD and XRF are fundamentally different. The XRD work has been published and practiced worldwide. The unified theory derives a new intensity–concentration equation of XRF, which is free from the matrix effect and valid for a wide range of concentrations. The linear decoding equation establishes a constant slope for each element sought, hence eliminating the work on calibration lines. The simple linear decoding equation has been verified by 18 experiments.
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