Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS, EDX, EDXS or XEDS), sometimes called energy dispersive X-ray analysis (EDXA or EDAX) or energy dispersive X-ray microanalysis (EDXMA), is an analytical technique used for the elemental analysis or chemical characterization of a sample. It relies on an interaction of some source of X-ray excitation and a sample. Its characterization capabilities are due in large part to the fundamental principle that each element has a unique atomic structure allowing a unique set of peaks on its electromagnetic emission spectrum (which is the main principle of spectroscopy). The peak positions are predicted by the Moseley's law with accuracy much better than experimental resolution of a typical EDX instrument.
To stimulate the emission of characteristic X-rays from a specimen a beam of electrons is focused into the sample being studied. At rest, an atom within the sample contains ground state (or unexcited) electrons in discrete energy levels or electron shells bound to the nucleus. The incident beam may excite an electron in an inner shell, ejecting it from the shell while creating an electron hole where the electron was. An electron from an outer, higher-energy shell then fills the hole, and the difference in energy between the higher-energy shell and the lower energy shell may be released in the form of an X-ray. The number and energy of the X-rays emitted from a specimen can be measured by an energy-dispersive spectrometer. As the energies of the X-rays are characteristic of the difference in energy between the two shells and of the atomic structure of the emitting element, EDS allows the elemental composition of the specimen to be measured.