Identification of an unknown sludge

X-ray diffraction (XRD) is an excellent analysis technique for identifying unknown solid materials. The XRD pattern can act as a fingerprint to identify unknown materials in crystalline and semi-crystalline samples.

Figure 1 is a picture of a sludge presented from a deteriorated water pump. The X-ray diffraction pattern of this material (Figure 2), acquired using a Rigaku MiniFlex benchtop diffractometer, reveals that this sample contains both crystalline and amorphous components. The broad humps in the pattern come from the amorphous component(s) while the sharp peaks come from the crystalline portion. By determining the location and intensity of the crystalline diffraction peaks and matching to a known database of crystalline materials, it is possible to identify the crystalline component of the sample. 

sludge1

Figure 1: Sludge sample from water pump

sludge2

Figure 2: Phase ID of dried sludge sample

In this case the peaks reveal that the material contains both calcium oxalate monohydrate and iron sulfide.


The fifth generation MiniFlex is a general purpose X-ray diffractometer that can perform qualitative and quantitative analysis of polycrystalline materials. The MiniFlex is available in two variations. Operating at 600 watts (X-ray tube), the MiniFlex 600 is twice as powerful as other benchtop models, enabling faster analysis and improved overall throughput. Running at 300 watts (X-ray tube), the new MiniFlex 300 does not require an external heat exchanger. Each model is engineered to maximize flexibility in a benchtop package. Read more...

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