If you want to find out the exact composition of an unknown crystalline material, you will likely conduct a laboratory study using the X-ray powder Diffraction (XRD) technique. With this method, you are to test a sample of the material and determine exactly what it is made of and its structure. There are many different fields and disciplines that make use of XRD, from engineering and geology to the material sciences. It is also used in environmental and biology sciences.
When you run an X-ray powder Diffraction test, the resulting output is then cross-referenced against a comprehensive database that contains a detailed and extensive catalog of substances and their corresponding unique signatures. Based on this comparison, a scientist or laboratory technician will be able to identify the minerals present in the tested sample precisely. The materials analysis results will also offer important information regarding the crystalline structure, phases, and orientation. If the sample that was tested contains more than one substance, the test will identify the percentage of each mineral that is present.
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Key Uses of XRD Technology and Testing
X-ray diffraction testing has a broad range of possible applications. This advanced technology lets you quantify the different materials within a crystalline substance. It also provides detailed analysis of solids that contain multiple components, as well as revealing the acute phases of the crystalline structure. With X-ray diffraction testing, you are also able to determine the purity of the sample being tested precisely.
XRD is also used to analyze and determine the percentage of the material that is amorphous versus in a structured, crystalline form. The technique provides rapid testing and results, which is ideal when you want to quickly determine and quantify several materials that are of an unknown nature. Preparation of the sample for testing and analysis is simple, and the tests are not destructive in nature.
Understanding Coal Bed Deposits
By testing and analyzing the composition and variation of minerals found along lateral and vertical stretches of a coal bed deposit, geologists can determine key data about the coal bed. XRD also allows them to identify the specific elements within the coal deposit.
Detailed reviews of the data from the XRD analyses can provide a clear picture of how the coal bed formed originally. Testing of Western coal beds provided enough detail to build a correlation model comparing the potential of the Western deposits to much-studied Appalachian coal beds and reserves.
Application of XRD Testing in Environmental Studies
The use of X-ray diffraction testing has proven to be very valuable when used to analyze materials from locations that have been adversely affected by environmental issues such as acid mine drainage. When environmental scientists discover this problem, it is critically important to be able to identify the fine-grained precipitates and the presence of any secondary minerals.
Harmful acid within a mine is often created when substances composed of iron sulfide, like pyrite, are weathered. As these elements are altered, they may flow into solutions or may form other minerals. Geologists and environmental scientists use XRD to analyze all the materials in detail and to help understand the solubility and transport issues affecting the area where the mine is located.
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