Rapid and accurate analyses of silicon and phosphorus in plants using a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer

Stefan Reidinger, Michael H. Ramsey, Sue E. Hartley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The elemental analysis of plant material is a frequently employed tool across biological disciplines, yet accurate, convenient and economical methods for the determination of some important elements are currently lacking. For instance, digestion-based techniques are often hazardous and time-consuming and, particularly in the case of silicon (Si), can suffer from low accuracy due to incomplete solubilization and potential volatilization, whilst other methods may require large, expensive and specialised equipment.

Here, we present a rapid, safe and accurate procedure for the simultaneous, nonconsumptive analysis of Si and phosphorus (P) in as little as 0.1 g dried and ground plant material using a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (P-XRF).

We used certified reference materials from different plant species to test the analytical performance of P-XRF and show that the analysis suffers from very little bias and that the repeatability precision of the measurements is as good as or better than that of other methods.

Using this technique we were able to process and analyse 200 ground samples a day, so P-XRF could provide a particularly valuable tool for plant biologists requiring the simultaneous nonconsumptive analysis of multiple elements, including those known to be difficult to measure such as Si, in large numbers of samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-706
Number of pages8
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012

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