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March-April 2013

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Word to the Wise: Raman Spectroscopy In the Identification and Study of Minerals

RAMAN SPECTROSCOPY is an analysis tool that has been of increasing interest in the mineralogical and gemological communities as instruments have become increasingly available (due to their more compact size and lower cost) and easier to use (McMillan 1989; Bersani and Lottici 2010). Spectra that used to take many hours to collect a few decades ago can now be collected in a matter of only minutes to tens of minutes. In addition, online libraries of Raman spectra of minerals such as that from the RRUFF (http://rruff.info/) Project have become rather comprehensive. The RRUFF Project's CrystalSleuth application software is powerful, free, and easy to use (Downs 2006). Because it is nondestructive in nature, requires relatively little sample preparation, and can analyze grains down to a few microns across, Raman spectroscopy is a powerful tool for identification and characterization of minerals, especially when combined with other analytical methods. It is also an invaluable nondestructive tool for the characterization of fluid inclusions in minerals and gemstones (Bersani and Lottici 2010; Olivier 2006; Burke 2001). This Word to the Wise column is intended to serve as a brief introduction to Raman spectroscopy for mineral collectors and, as such, focuses on the application of Raman spectroscopy to crystals (see Smith and Carabatos-Nédelec 2001). The references cited can serve as a springboard for readers interested in additional information from theory to practice. The illustrative examples in this column are taken from the study of the minerals from the December 2007 diopside-graphite pocket at the Karo pit, Merelani mines, Tanzania.

Dr. John A. Jaszczak is adjunct curator of the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum and a professor of physics at Michigan Technological University specializing in computational physics and nanotechnology education.



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