Geology and mineralogy

Most materials used in manufacturing come from earthly sources, typically starting as an ore extracted from the ground. The ability to characterize geological samples and minerals is critical to geologists, the mining industry, and companies that use beneficial materials from mineral deposits.

Minerals encompass many of the elements found in the periodic table, particularly transition and post-transition metals, as well as metalloids. These elements may combine with the reactive alkali and alkaline-earth metals such as sodium, calcium and potassium. Most metallic materials combine with oxygen as oxides.

The analysis of these compounds is complicated by their crystalline structure. Most geological samples do not consist of single crystals but are typically complex polycrystalline materials.

In order to locate mineral deposits, control their processes for beneficiation, or transform them into a supplier material, analytical tools are critical for isotopic signature, and elemental and structural identification.

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Elemental Analysis

Quickly determine the elemental composition of geologic and mineral samples using characteristic X-rays. As every element has a unique electron orbit, when energized by X-rays or an electron beam the sample emits unique signals to identify the elements within the sample.

Typically non-destructive, X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) technology is the gold-standard for accurate, nondestructive elemental analysis in a wide range of applications including cement, metals, mining, petroleum, chemicals, environmental and food.

Energy-dispersive spectroscopy in electron microscopes uses the same principal as XRF, enabling the geologist to identify elements and phases at the microscopic scale.

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Characteristic X-rays identify elements

Achieve rapid material characterization and analysis to ensure product chemistry specifications are met. X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) technology is the gold-standard for accurate, nondestructive elemental analysis of geological and mineralogical samples.

As with most spectroscopic techniques, X-ray fluorescence uses an energy source to excite a sample resulting in a characteristic spectrum. All samples are made up of some elemental composition, and when an incident X-ray beam strikes the sample, some electrons are ejected from the material. When an electron is replaced in the atom, it emits a characteristic X-ray energy, and in measuring that energy we can identify the element from which it came.

Instruments may be designed to capture the full spectrum of energies emitted from the sample, known as energy-dispersive, or may use diffraction crystals to select a specific energy range by wavelength in order to separate several elements and conflicting energies.

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X-ray Microanalysis with EDS

Achieve rapid material characterization and analysis to ensure product chemistry specifications are met. X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) technology is the gold-standard for accurate, nondestructive elemental analysis of geological and mineralogical samples

Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS or EDX) uses the same characterization principle as X-ray Fluorescence: an energy source impinges on the sample, causing electrons to be ejected from the material. As each atom uses outer electrons to stabilize, a characteristic X-ray is generated by the transition. Measuring the energy of the transition therefore identifies the element in question.

To create a microscopic image, the electron microscope floods the sample with an electron beam. This electron beam therefore becomes the excitation source for the EDS analysis. A companion technique, WDS (or WDX), uses crystals and X-ray optics to refine the energy readings by wavelength for higher sensitivity, reducing conflicts between overlapping energies such as silicon (1.739 Kα) and tungsten (1.774 M).

X-ray Microanalysis Resources

Structural Analysis

Determine the crystalline structure of gems and minerals at the bulk or microscopic scale with diffraction techniques. Use Raman spectroscopy to identify mineral structures from spectral data.

Most minerals develop into an organized structure. These shapes are influenced by the atomic structure of the mineral, but they can also be influenced by the environment of crystal growth. Many materials and minerals are not readily available in single-crystal form. Today’s X-ray diffraction instruments can easily analyze any polycrystalline sample, including monolithic solids, thin films, and powders. In the scanning electron microscope, an electron beam creates backscattered electrons that also present a diffraction pattern for analysis of crystalline structures.

Raman spectroscopy enables the detection of minerals of light elements such as carbon and fluorine; distinguishing between polymorphs such as those of iron sulfides; characterizing sulfides containing minor elements such as iron in sphalerite; and the identification of silicate, oxide, and carbonate gangue minerals. The Raman microprobe also permits Raman imaging and mapping of surfaces and inclusions

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X-ray Diffraction Principle

X-ray diffraction is a technique used to determine the crystallographic structure of a crystal. The crystalline structure in a sample causes a beam of incident X-rays to diffract into several specific directions. The resulting intensity is measured by a detector and provides useful information not only about the sample mineral composition but also about detailed crystalline information such as average crystallite size or internal atomic substitutions.

X-ray diffraction enables qualitative identification of polycrystalline phases present in a sample, quantitative analysis of the concentrations of each phase present in a multiphase sample, and orientation distributions that indicate the crystallite orientation in polycrystalline samples. The technique is versatile and not only limited to single crystals structure determination.

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Raman Effect

Rapidly explore the entire sample area and find exactly what you are looking for (e.g., target particles, defects, contaminants, etc.), using our intelligent approach to chemical imaging and data collection. The Thermo Scientific DXR3xi Raman Imaging Microscope reveals visual information with speed and simplicity ideal for multi-user labs.

When light is irradiated on molecules, the light is scattered by molecules. A fraction of that light has a different frequency from the interaction between oscillation of light and molecular vibration. Because this frequency modulation is specific to molecular vibration and phonon in crystal, it is possible to analyze the composition of material or its crystal lattice information from the spectrum of the scattered light.

Raman can characterize material’s chemical backbone, polymorph structure and degree of crystallinity. Polarization additionally can reveal crystal orientation, making Raman spectral analysis a multifaceted tool for understanding a material’s structure-function relationship.

Using visible light wavelengths enables a Raman microscope to resolve and identify small defects and contaminants using single-point measurements or rapid imaging down to 1 micron.

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EBSD grain boundries

New CMOS camera technology enables a significant improvement in sensitivity and speed. Choose from our Quasor II electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) detector for fast collection rates and accurate pattern detection and indexing at an affordable price. Or take a look at our new Lumis EBSD detector for the ultimate in EBSD technology.

Electron backscatter diffraction is a crystallographic characterization technique similar to X-ray diffraction, however on the microscopic scale. Used in a scanning electron microscope (SEM), EBSD uses Bragg angle measurements (diffraction patterns) to characterize the sample’s crystallographic phase and orientation from the electron interaction in the SEM.

Software tools can measure the sample’s misorientation, grain size, and crystallographic texture. This data is valuable in understanding of the sample's microstructure and processing history, including knowledge of the prior texture of parent phases at elevated temperature; the storage and residual deformation after mechanical testing; the population of various microstructural features, including precipitates and grain boundary character.

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