Powder X-ray diffraction (XRD) is a versatile, non-destructive analytical method that provides important information on material properties. Powder XRD can yield the phase composition, structure, and texture of a range of solid samples, and is widely applied across the Earth sciences.

The Department of Earth Sciences at Oxford houses a PANalytical Empyrean Series 2 powder diffractometer installed in 2015. The Empyrean is configured for a range of diffraction experiments in the theta-theta geometry, and operates with a Cobalt X-ray source, programmable divergence and anti-scatter slits, reflection transmission spinner stage, capillary stage, parallel beam focusing mirror, and sample changer (accommodating up to 48 samples). The instrument can be used in reflection or transmission geometry, and is configured with the newly developed PIXcel1D detector, which increases data acquisition rates up to ~256 times compared to conventional single strip detectors. Through the use of silicon single crystal substrates, diffraction data can be acquired on vanishingly small amounts of material (though this is dependent on composition).

Empyrean goniometer with reflection-transmission stage and sample changer

Empyrean goniometer with reflection-transmission stage and sample changer

Powder diffraction data produced from our facility are interpreted in a number of different ways, depending on the application and nature of the material. The most common applications include: phase identification and quantification (including clay mineral identification), structural refinement using the Rietveld method, size/strain analysis and in-situ/non-ambient diffraction.

We also provide analytical services for users both within and beyond the University of Oxford. For more information, please contact Nick Tosca.