X-ray diffraction (XRD) is a versatile, non-destructive technique that reveals detailed information about the chemical composition and crystallographic structure of natural and manufactured materials.
A crystal lattice is a regular three-dimensional distribution (cubic, rhombic, etc.) of atoms in space. These are arranged so that they form a series of parallel planes separated from one another by a distance d, which varies according to the nature of the material. For any crystal, planes exist in a number of different orientations - each with its own specific d-spacing.
When a monochromatic X-ray beam with wavelength lambda is projected onto a crystalline material at an angle theta, diffraction occurs only when the distance traveled by the rays reflected from successive planes differs by a complete number n of wavelengths.
By varying the angle theta, the Bragg's Law conditions are satisfied by different d-spacings in polycrystalline materials. Plotting the angular positions and intensities of the resultant diffracted peaks of radiation produces a pattern, which is characteristic of the sample. Where a mixture of different phases is present, the resultant diffractogram is formed by addition of the individual patterns.
Based on the principle of X-ray diffraction, a wealth of structural, physical and chemical information about the material investigated can be obtained. A host of application techniques for various material classes is available, each revealing its own specific details of the sample studied.