With X-Ray Powder Diffraction (“XRD”), you can quickly and easily identify crystalline samples of material that needs to be tested. This technique can provide detailed information about the substance, including its specific crystal structure, average grain size, preferred orientation and other key data. Basically, the testing works because each crystalline sample returns a unique and distinct pattern of X-Ray diffraction. This functions as the DNA of the sample, and it is then matched against one of the available and relevant databases.
The ability to match a sample to a detailed database entry results in a wide range of possible applications across many different industries. You’ll find this testing used in environmental sciences, biology and in the field of pharmaceuticals. It’s also used in geology, general engineering and the material sciences too.
Primary Applications for X-Ray Diffraction
There are many possible uses for this form of testing. In addition to quantifying materials of a crystalline nature, it can also be used to specifically determine the cell’s unit dimensions. X-Ray Diffraction can be used for sample purity measurements and investigation, and forensic matching is also an option. This testing technique can also be helpful for performing reverse engineering or when analyzing competitive products.
When multi-component solids are in play, it is possible to determine the acute crystalline phases. If you are testing films and other substances, you’ll also be able to note the specific size of the crystals. Rocking curve measurements can also provide key information about thin films and their associated quality.
Example of Use: Environmental and Mineral Studies
With concerns about the environment and the potential for human harm, it’s become increasingly important to be able to correctly identify what is going on at suspected problem sites. XRD testing has been used successfully when studying multiple areas that have been affected by drainage of acid from mines. During this analysis it was important to identify precipitates that were fine-grained and secondary minerals too.
Acid production can occur when minerals from the iron sulfide category, like pyrite, are weathered. These elements in turn may generate secondary substances or become part of solutions. It’s important to study and understand the processes in play, so we can know more about ongoing mitigation techniques that need to be applied.
Example of Use: Analysis and Siting of Coal Beds
XRD testing allows geologists and other scientists to identify and study the genesis of ore beds. The resulting analysis also provides information about how the beds, once formed, were altered over time. More in-depth studies can then examine variations in specific minerals within the coal beds. This data can be useful in predicting variability within coal zones that should be minable.
Detailed studies that focused on the paleosols, or ancient underground soil horizons, and the fine-grained underclay directly beneath the coal beds produced fantastic analytical results. Experts were able to look at formation data from the Appalachian beds and find parallels and correlations with beds located in the Western Interior basis.
When scientists are looking for detailed composition and other data about crystalline minerals, they often turn to X-Ray Diffraction testing. These tests can provide valuable information regarding mineral composition, deposit formation and the detailed structure of the samples being studied.