If you are in an industry that works with material of a crystalline nature, you may often have the need to determine the exact composition of the material in question. This sort of testing is routinely a part of many different fields of study, including materials science, geology, metallurgy, corrosion and life sciences.

You’ll also find these studies employed in diverse industries such as pharmaceuticals, engineering and mining, and being conducted as part of environmental protection initiatives too.

These sophisticated tests return detailed results that can then be cross-referenced to established databases that identify a variety of different substances, along with their unique signatures.

With this comparison, it’s possible for a scientist or skilled technician to specifically identify the exact component minerals that were part of the original sample. Result sets will also include key information about the crystalline material, such as the specific structure, phases and orientation. Samples with multiple substances will yield valuable information, and identify the exact percentage of each mineral that was present.

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Key Applications of XRD Testing

There are many types of materials analysis that might be employed during the testing process. One of the key technologies that is used when you need to conduct detailed material component studies for crystalline matter is XRD, or X-Ray Powder Diffraction.

With this technology, it’s possible to examine solids with multiple components and determine the acute phases of the crystalline material.

XRD can be used to measure the purity of the sample being tested, and specifies what percent of the test material is in structured crystalline form vs. amorphous. It’s an ideal technique for rapidly determining the exact presence of materials when that is unknown. The testing is non-destructive, and you only need minimal preparation.

Using X-Ray Diffraction to Analyze Minerals and Protect the Environment

XRD has been successfully used to perform detailed testing on areas that have been adversely impacted by issues around acid mine drainage. When agencies or other parties come across acid mine drainage, it’s critical to begin to catalog the exact fine-grained precipitates that are present and to also identify the secondary minerals.

When materials composed of iron sulfide, like you find in pyrite, become weathered it can create acid in a mine. As these elements are further altered, they can go into solution or can combine to form other minerals. It’s necessary to do a thorough analysis of all the minerals present, and their percentages. With this analysis, geologists and environmental scientists can determine how solubility and transport are affecting the area around the mine.

XRD and the Study of Coal Beds

This sophisticated form of testing has also been utilized to find out important information about coal beds. With XRD, the exact percentage and composition of key elements in the coal bed can be determined.

In addition, geologists and scientists can look at the variation of these key minerals along various lateral and vertical stretches of the deposit. When all the information from these studies is assembled, it provides a very detailed picture of the original formation of the specific coal bed. Correlation models can then be constructed that compare this bed with other profitable zones from past mining endeavors.