Devices Used to Test Metal at Scrap Yards

Written by rhonda donaldson
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Devices Used to Test Metal at Scrap Yards
Scrap yard owners want to identify all metals. (The Claw image by photorich from

Scrap metal analyzers and radiation detectors have changed how scrap companies determine the composition of metal before it is purchased. The scrap industry is a worldwide trade, and many companies rely on hand-held analyzers to determine the composition of scrap metal before estimating its worth. All analyzers perform on the same basis, analysing the light energy for each element of the metal. The analyzer then matches the information to a specific material in a database of known material types.

Metal Identities

Successful commercial scrap companies must be able to identify different grades of copper, brass, titanium, nickel and grades of steel and iron prior to selling. Two types of hand-held metal analyzers are used in the scrap metal industry: optical emission and x-ray fluorescence. Both types of analyzers are hand-held and are cordless.

Optical Emission Analyzers

Optical emission (OE) analyzers work on the science of electricity. A charge of electrical energy actually burns a piece of the metal and charges the atoms on the surface, causing electrons to send light back to the unit. The elements in the light are then determined by the OE analyzer. The type of material is either displayed on a screen or sent to a printer.

X-ray Fluorescence Analyzers

Analyzers using x-ray fluorescence (XRF) technology work in a similar way, but rather than burning the metals in order to transfer the atoms, the XRF analyzer bombards the metal with X-rays, which then excite the material's electrons and emit light back to the device to identify the metal composition.

Radiation Detectors

A commercial scrap business utilises radiation detectors to help detect many metals contaminated with radiation. A common kind of detector is the Geiger counter hand-held model. Owners can screen material either at the truck scales by overhead detectors or with a grapple-mounted detector on a crane. The detectors will recognise gamma-rays in a gamma-ray energy database and identify the source of the radioactivity. An alarm will sound if the scrap is contaminated.

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