Hope College Physics Department
Research Experiences for Undergraduates
Summer 2010
Project Summary


Project Title: PIXE Analysis of Automobile Paint Layers
Student Name: Kiley Spirito
Student's Home Institution: Hope College
Research Advisor: Dr. Paul DeYoung
Source of Support:

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.

Publications and Presentations:
“PIXE Analysis of Automobile Paint Layers” Kiley Spirito. 2011 Celebration of Undergraduate Research, Hope College, April 15, 2011.