As films such as 2019’s Dark Waters reflect, chemical contamination – and the serious implications it has for both human health and the wider environment – is increasingly in the public consciousness. And, as the public becomes more aware of wastewater contamination, governmental and non-governmental institutions are implementing ever-stricter regulations on it – including in the mining industry.

Indeed, to comply with these regulations, protect our natural environment, safeguard human health, and retain a competitive advantage, many mining companies around the world are increasingly working to prevent soil pollution from contaminated wastewater.

What’s the best way to monitor wastewater composition?

Of course, to take quick action against hazardous elements in their wastewater, mining companies must be able to closely monitor the elemental composition of their wastewater streams for any changes. But, while most mining processing plants do have their own water treatment facilities, the monitoring methods used vary in effectiveness.

For instance, some of the most popular traditional methods are inductively coupled plasma (ICP) analysis or calorimetry – typically performed at-line in the laboratory. But there’s a major downside to these techniques: they are destructive, and can often only analyze 1-2 milliliters of wastewater per sample. On top of this, these methods also require qualified and trained operators to run the instrument. All in all, a solution that’s not always worth the cost.

Real-time monitoring: A stronger solution

There’s an alternative, though: real-time, online monitoring, without human intervention. This method gives mining companies direct insight into the production process and allows them to control essential parameters quickly and accurately. In this way, companies can save time, ensure they adhere to ever-tighter product specifications and regulatory requirements, and help protect our natural environment. What’s more, by minimizing the costs of labor, reagents, and penalties for waste and non-compliance, real-time monitoring can also help mining companies to boost their profitability.

Epsilon Xflow: Designed for mining

At Malvern Panalytical, we offer a high-performance solution to help our mining-industry customers take advantage of these benefits: the Epsilon Xflow. This real-time liquid elemental analyzer is designed for the continuous analysis of elemental composition in liquids. Its high accuracy, excellent repeatability, and ability to respond immediately to changing process conditions make it ideal for mining applications.

Indeed, the Epsilon Xflow can also be used to monitor process liquids, enabling mining companies to optimize their plant throughput, ensure highly efficient production, and deliver optimal ore quality. Need more proof? Just look at the results from our application study  – demonstrating the instrument’s versatility in improving the efficiency of different processes, and its ability to produce stable results over several months without any recalibration. With tools like this, mining companies – and the world at large – can be confident that the wastewater issues highlighted in Dark Waters won’t happen again.

Savings due to online monitoring of chemical composition in mine wastewater or process liquids

Written by: Uwe König, Posted by: Malvern Panalytical (www.material-talks.com)


VNIR technology

Near-infrared spectroscopy is the study of interactions of electromagnetic radiation with chemical bonds of materials – the energy is either reflected, transmitted, or absorbed. Spectra are produced when the bonds in organic materials or geologic minerals interact with this energy. Spectroscopy uses a ratio between reflected energy (or absorbed energy) relative to the total amount of energy that illuminates the sample. ASD portable VNIR products use 2151 wavelength intervals and combine them into a continuous spectral signature.

ASD spectrometers utilize the optical spectroscopic region of the electromagnetic spectrum (from 350 to 2500 nanometers). ASD instruments measure over the 350 to 2500 nm wavelength range. Unlike other measurement tools that use X-ray or ultraviolet, energy in this wavelength range is non-hazardous. Reflectance spectra can be used to quickly determine a material’s properties without altering or even coming in contact with the sample. These instruments are capable of examining irregular surfaces with the same ease as a carefully prepared sample and can also be used to analyze multiple constituents when utilizing a quantitative calibration model in a single 5-second scan. The technique is non-destructive and requires little or no sample preparation. Read more about measuring a product using ASD near-infrared (NIR) in this blog post.

These highly flexible analyses are used with a broad range of research and industrial process applications. Long considered a staple technology in earth remote sensing, reflectance spectroscopy has become popular within industrial markets. It is known for being a cost-effective tool for measuring materials to obtain actionable information to help optimize processes, manage costs and improve research.

Remote sensing

This application is defined as ‘the science and art of identifying, observing and measuring an object without coming into direct contact with it’1. Often, the sun is used to illuminate the sample, or alternatively, a quartz-halogen lamp can also be used to illuminate the material. In many cases, the spectra are acquired and information created without being in physical contact with the sample.

Remote sensing can aid in mineral exploration, art restoration, archeological studies, agricultural analysis for the determination of plant health, water status, fertilizer optimization, and many more.

ASD instruments, specifically the FieldSpec range, often use the sun as a source of illumination. Visible, near-infrared, and short-wave infrared sensors in the FieldSpec collect the energy reflected from the sample as a spectrum. These spectra are then used to differentiate between various materials such as plants or minerals. FieldSpec spectroradiometers can be optionally calibrated to produce radiance and irradiance measurements of absolute energy. This allows the spectra to be used in conjunction with overflight or orbital sensors contained in satellites. They can also be used interchangeably as spectrometers by referencing with a calibrated or uncalibrated Spectralon reference panel to obtain a spectral signature.

Optical remote sensing

A spectral signature is like a fingerprint. Different surface types such as water, bare ground, and vegetation reflect radiation differently in various channels. Essentially, the configuration of the reflectance spectra allows the spectra to be used to recognize a type of material.

Ultimate Flexibility

FieldSpec is the most flexible spectrometer available today. In addition to remote sensing applications, it can also be used to create multivariate predictive models that can automatically predict material composition each time a spectrum is acquired! The FieldSpec can be used whenever and wherever it is needed, including in the laboratory or in the field as it can operate both online voltages or using a battery pack. Outstanding signal-to-noise means that portability doesn’t place a penalty on performance.

About ASD – a Malvern Panalytical brand

ASD is a Malvern Panalytical brand and delivers optical spectroscopy instruments for remote sensing, mining, and other industrial markets. They complement and extend the company’s offering towards scientific and industrial customers adding portable, handheld, benchtop, and online products.

ASD optical spectrometer and spectroradiometer instruments have many diverse application uses. They can be employed in various market sectors, such as environmental (FieldSpec), mining (TerraSpec), and food & pharma (LabSpec) and are occasionally used in forensics, cosmetics, and building materials.


1. Evelyn L. Pruitt, US Office of Naval Research


Written by: Dan Shiley, Posted by: Malvern Panalytical on www.materials-talks.com


In the late 1800s, a gold rush boosted the economy of Charters Towers – an outback town in Queensland, Australia – so much that it opened its own stock exchange. Although it’s no longer trading, the building is still standing. Across the 20th century, though, the town’s fortunes see-sawed, as metal prices rose and fell, and demand for mining fluctuated.

As illustrated by Charters Towers, the mining industry is heavily influenced by external change. To take full advantage of the beneficial changes, and remain resilient in the face of detrimental ones, mining companies around the world need to anticipate, understand, and respond to the trends facing the industry.

Driven by global issues

So, what are these trends, and what are the factors behind them? Wider global issues – encompassing political, economic, technological, and environmental, social, and governmental (ESG) topics – are influencing several key trends. Next to this, declining ore grades and environmental strain mean mining increasingly happens in hard-to-reach, remote locations.

Together with developments in geometallurgy and big data, and the impact of COVID-19, these remote locations are driving the need for real-time, in-field, and automated analysis. Last but not least, growing concern for the climate and stricter governmental regulation is encouraging more thorough waste management and increased use of secondary or recycled materials.

Materials analysis: The key to navigating change

High-performance materials analysis solutions can help miners tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities among these trends. For instance, more frequent, accurate monitoring can ensure mining still delivers high-value materials despite lower-grade ores.

Online solutions enable a greater degree of automation, making work in remote locations more feasible. Portable, multi-sensor, instruments are expanding the options for real-time, in-field analysis. And waste characterization helps prevent harmful substances from reaching the environment and allows secondary materials to be recycled when possible.

Solutions to keep you prepared

At Malvern Panalytical, we provide many of these advanced materials analysis solutions. For instance, our ASD FieldSpec and portable TerraSpec Halo NIR spectrometers as well as our Epsilon 1 XRF spectrometer enable real-time, in-field mineralogical and elemental monitoring, for optimal grade control and ore blends.

What’s more, our tailored solutions include remote sensing, online, and automated options, making remote access to dangerous or inaccessible sites easier. And, when it comes to environmental monitoring, our Epsilon online XRF spectrometers rapidly detect traces of toxic elements in mine wastewater. This allows miners to optimize their waste management and take action to prevent environmental damage.

And these are just some of our solutions for the mining industry. Together with our tailored expertise and application support, they can help you be prepared for the inevitable ups and downs of mining – as the history of Charters Towers so well demonstrates.

Written by: Posted by: Malvern Panalytical (www.materials-talks.com)



Many of us who work in the scientific and technical side of the Malvern Panalytical business, have higher level scientific qualifications such as PhD. Even though some of us may have studied in the previous century, it’s hard to forget the struggle to get good data for a paper, or to try again to get that extra data point that would make our PhD story just that little bit better.

We feel huge respect for those of you out there who are jumping through all of these hoops at the same time as having to contend with the uncertainties of COVID. Maybe you’re not able to turn up at the lab at any time, but instead you must book a place and prepare for a visit with forms and tests. Or simply stay at home and grapple with a sense of remoteness or a frustration about a lack of good resources.

We can’t solve everything, but we’ve organized two activities specifically to help university researchers and students.

A new way to get your questions answered

The first one is the Ask an Expert! series of webinars. They are spread out across the year. You can find the program here. We have tried to schedule something for everyone. At these webinars (live or recorded) you can find out more about a particular technology that our instruments provide. The sessions are purely about the method, how to understand it, make it work for you, and how to analyze the data. If the webinar is in the future, you still have the opportunity to submit questions. Our speakers will prepare some answers for you. If the webinar is in the past, you can watch the recording and find out what other people have asked, and hear our expert’s answers.

Free XRD software licenses for academics

The second activity is an offer of a free software license which is valid for 1 year (from the date you start to use it). This offer is for X-ray diffraction (XRD) users and applies to our XRD analysis software packages HighScore Plus and AMASS. We know that it takes time to perform an analysis of data. Both Rietveld fitting or High-resolution simulation and fitting can be tricky, and you need time to think about your data and try a few strategies for interpreting it. So, in these challenging times, we’d like you to have your own personal copy and access it on your own PC. If you are a researcher or team leader, please apply for free licenses here. You need to use your official university or research institute email address. If you are a student, please ask your supervisor to apply on your behalf. They can apply for up to 3 licenses for each type of software.

If you’re particularly proud of something you’ve achieved with the software, contact us! We’d be happy to feature your results on our hot news on the research page on our website.

Continuing research is so important for the future. We salute you!


Written by: Patricia Kidd, Posted by: Malvern Panalytica (www.materials-talks.com)

What’s your flash point?

Flash point is the lowest temperature at which a liquid (usually a petroleum product) will form a vapor in the air near its surface that will “flash,” or briefly ignite, on exposure to an open flame1. Back in the late 1800s, flash point was a lived experience. Households primarily used kerosene for heat and light, and open flame was a part of every day. Bad kerosene – fuel diluted with gasoline or other contaminants – delivered unpredictable flash points and bad results. Fires and explosions were fairly common. These shared catastrophes ushered in a focused effort to establish meaningful standards for various grades of petroleum. Both ASTM2 and OSHA3 have created standard flash point measurement methods that are used today.

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The standardization of flash point analysis fundamentally created a durable definition for flash point relative to the type of fuel considered. For example,

  • automotive gasoline,−43 °C (−45 °F)
  • ethyl alcohol, 13 °C (55 °F)
  • automotive diesel fuel, 38 °C (100 °F)
  • kerosene, 42-72 °C (108 – 162 °F)
  • home heating oil, 52-96 °C (126-205 °F)
  • SAE 10W-30 motor oil, 216 °C (421 °F)

Flash points are measured using one of two methods: closed cup or open cup. Either of these methods, when executed properly, deliver a precise characterization of the fuel tested, and are extremely important to identify contaminants in the fuel, especially those contaminants that are more volatile than the fuel itself. Like so many things, fuels can experience significant performance or monetary value changes due to contamination. Flash points are critical data points for quality assurance, and flash point analysis is a strong tool when used routinely to keep petroleum-based products true to grade.

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The recent acquisition of Paragon Scientific by LGC means our flash point standard portfolio is more comprehensive than ever and includes a range of CRMs suitable for Pensky Martens and Cleveland Open Cup techniques! Our flash point certified reference materials are certified in accordance with international test method protocols, including ASTM, and are fully traceable to international standards. Download our catalog to learn more about the entire product family or contact us for more information.


Written by: Courtney Dillon Posted by: ARMI MBH (www.armi.com)


Structural Analysis

Catalysts have become critical materials for a wide variety of applications in our modern-day industrial world. Among the different types of techniques utilized to characterize catalytic materials, X-ray diffraction (XRD) holds a unique place in that it can be utilized to obtain both qualitative and quantitative phase information of crystalline materials as well as for the analysis of amorphous and nanomaterials. While heterogeneous catalysts are ideally suited for XRD analysis, both homogeneous and biocatalysts can also be studied via this method. In a recent white paper, Characterization of Catalytic Materials on Laboratory-Based X-Ray Diffraction Platforms, we highlight several techniques that you can perform on Malvern Panalytical’s floor-standing and compact XRD platforms to assist in the characterization of catalytic materials. Many may be familiar with X-ray powder diffraction (XRPD) for the analysis of crystalline materials (i.e. phase identification and quantification) through Bragg’s Law, as depicted in Figure 1. Malvern Panalytical’s line of X-ray diffraction instruments can provide this information for both crystalline and amorphous phases as well as providing information about crystallite size and microstrain through the examination of the peak breadths.

Figure 1 Illustration of Bragg diffraction from a crystalline material. At a specific angle (θ) the two waves scattered from atoms separated by a distance (d) will interfere constructively and a signal will be detected, (n = 1,2, 3…).

In addition, specialized XRD methods such as non-ambient (NA) measurements along with X-ray scattering techniques such as pair distribution function analysis (PDF) and small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), can provide a more in-depth understanding of catalytic materials. One can examine catalytic samples under relevant non-ambient conditions to explore reaction pathways, observe phase changes, and examine the material’s thermal stability. Utilizing various non-ambient stages, available on both floor standing and compact models, the temperature, humidity, and atmosphere can all be precisely controlled during measurements. Furthermore, one can obtain information about particle size and shape as well as short- and intermediate-range order through the aforementioned X-ray scattering techniques which have traditionally been relegated to synchrotron facilities. However, thanks to technologies such as our ScatterX78 stage and GaliPIX3D detector, these measurements can now be performed in-house [1,2].

Instrument Versatility

Standard powder X-ray diffraction measurements, including those under non-ambient conditions (up to 500° C), are easily performed on the Aeris compact X-ray diffractometer. This instrument has a comparable resolution, scan-times, and peak intensities to the floor standing Empyrean system. Furthermore, all of the standard PXRD measurements, as well as the aforementioned advanced techniques (NA, SAXS, and PDF), can be performed on a single Empyrean instrument with Malvern Panalytical’s PreFIX (Pre-aligned Fast Interchangeable X-ray modules) technology. This allows stages and optics to be quickly exchanged without the need for re-alignment of the instrument. Figure 2 shows an example of a component mounted on the Empyrean instrument utilizing the PreFIX technology.

Figure 2 Image of an XRD accessory (beam knife) inserted in a PreFIX block on the Empyrean instrument.

Powerful Software

Our HighScore (Plus) software can be utilized for the analysis of data from both the Empyrean and Aeris platforms. With this package, phase identification and quantification can be easily performed along with more advanced analysis techniques such as the determination of lattice parameters, peak widths, crystallite size, micro-strain, and PDF analysis [3]. Furthermore, features like cluster analysis are also included in the HighScore Plus package and can be exploited for processing large datasets such as those obtained from non-ambient measurements [4]. Lastly, Malvern Panalytical’s EasySAXS software provides a straightforward method for obtaining relevant information from data collected during SAXS experiments. These include the volume-weighted size distribution, particle shape, and specific surface area [5]. Figure 3 shows examples of analysis performed in the two packages.

Figure 3 Analysis performed in the HighScore (Plus) software package: A.) Phase identification and quantification, B.) Cluster analysis, C.) PDF analysis. Additionally, an example of the EasySAXS user interface (D.) is shown.

True power comes from combining data

No doubt, X-ray diffraction techniques can provide a more in-depth understanding of catalytic materials. Our white paper highlights several techniques that can be performed on Malvern Panalytical’s floor standing and benchtop XRD platforms to assist in their characterization.


Written by: Brad Losey, posted by: Malvern Panalytical (www.materials-talks.com)



  1. Te Nijenhuis, J., Gateshki, M., & Fransen, M. J. (2009). Possibilities and limitations of x-ray diffraction using high-energy x-rays on a laboratory system. Zeitschrift Für Kristallographie Supplements, 2009(30), 163-169. doi:10.1524/zksu.2009.0023
  2. Confalonieri, G., Dapiaggi, M., Sommariva, M., Gateshki, M., Fitch, A. N., & Bernasconi, A. (2015). Comparison of total scattering data from various sources: The case of a nanometric spinel. Powder Diffraction, 30(S1), S65. doi:10.1017/s0885715614001389
  3. Degen, T., Sadki, M., Bron, E., König, U., & Nénert, G. (2014). The HighScore suite. Powder Diffraction, 29(S2). , S13-S18. doi:10.1017/s0885715614000840
  4. Automatic analysis of large amounts of X-ray diffraction data with HighScore Plus. Malvern Panalytical application data sheet.
  5. Bolze, J.; Kogan, V.; Beckers, D.; Fransen, M. High-performance small- and wide-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS/WAXS) experiments on a multi-functional laboratory goniometer platform with easily exchangeable X-ray modules. Review of Scientific Instruments2018, 89(8), 085115.Bolze, J., Kogan, V., Beckers, D., & Fransen, M. (2018). High-performance small- and wide-angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS/WAXS) experiments on a MULTI-FUNCTIONAL laboratory Goniometer platform with easily EXCHANGEABLE x-ray modules. Review of Scientific Instruments, 89(8), 085115. doi:10.1063/1.5041949


IAGeo SDAR Reference Materials

 NIST soil samples have long been the go-to solution for analysts looking for standards of varying levels of contaminants when testing sediment and soil samples for contamination. IAG has developed a solution to the higher priced NIST CRMS in the form of three RM materials which closely match the composition of each of the popular NIST Soils 2709, 2710 and 2711.

SDAR Samples

The SdAR series of reference materials have been designed to resemble the sediments, soils and related materials which are typically sampled when monitoring levels of environmental contamination. This contamination  is often associated with, discharges from mining operations or industrial pollution. The preparation of these materials was carefully considered, and was done to maintain the properties which make a natural sample so desirable. Each sample is a carefully prepared combination of ore-grade material from multiple locations, diluted with baseline soils and sediment. The use of natural materials maintains the effect of mineralogy on chemical analysis, and the use of distinct blending ratios provides a smooth and gradual calibration over a wide concentration range.

Each of these three standards are available in polycarbonate bottles containing 80g of material.

This unique series of reference materials have been designed as substitutes for the expensive NIST 2709-2711 metal-bearing sediment SRMs of similar composition (see diagrams). A low (SdAR-L2), medium (SdAR-M2) and high (SdAR-H1). These reference materials are intended for use in the calibration of portable XRF instruments and in routine laboratory analysis.

SdAR-H1-vs-SRM-2710a  SdAR-M2-vs-SSRM-2711a

New analysis has been conducted on these materials to include data based on aqua-regia selective extraction procedures, which is now available in an addendum to the original certificates. This information will be particularly useful for laboratories seeking reference materials for aqua-regia  extractions performed at 90 to 110°C, reflecting the procedures commonly used by commercial laboratories which service the industries for mining and geochemical exploration, and for environmental monitoring.

These standards are available individually or as a set with special set pricing.

To see the full data-set for all standards, including the aqua-regia extraction, download the certificate

SdAR Soils Cert

Posted by: ARMI MBH on https://www.armi.com/sdar-reference-set
















Malvern Panalytical’s ASD TerraSpec® Halo mineral identifier is being used as part of today’s space race to return astronauts to the Moon, Mars, and beyond! The full-range (350-2500nm) portable spectrometer was recently selected and used in multiple research projects aimed at expanding U.S. efforts in planetary exploration.

Project PoSSUM

Project PoSSUM citizen-science course members 

Dr. Ulyana “Uly” Horodyskyj was involved in co-teaching an adult continuing education program, “Planetary Field Geology and EVA Tool Development.” The course was held by Project PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere), a 501(c)(3) astronautics research and education program studying our upper-atmosphere and its role in our changing global climate.

Dr. Ulyana Horodyskyj demonstrates use of the ASD TerraSpec Halo 

The Project PoSSUM program utilizes scientific procedures to drive technology maturation, and this course taught surface geology to twelve PoSSUM citizen-scientists who came from all over the world to learn procedures and develop tools that will influence the design of EVA space suits. Class participants had the assignment of coming up with a concept of a field tool that they were to design and have 3D printed or otherwise assembled; additionally, standard geologic tools such as rock hammers, rock kits and hardness tests were involved. It was Uly’s suggestion to incorporate and include the use of the ASD TerraSpec Halo VIS-NIR-SWIR (visible – near-infrared – short-wave infrared) spectrometer in the teaching of the course, as the instrument can measure the spectrum of rocks and identify alteration minerals, which are key for when scientists and astronauts eventually do get back to the Moon and/or go to Mars, and are looking for traces of water.

With NASA ramping up to go back to the Moon, to Mars and beyond, there is a need for people to be well versed in planetary field geology. Use of the TerraSpec Halo to identify alteration minerals is a great way to do analog testing on Earth, before committing to future missions to the Moon and Mars. – Uly Horodyskyj

Project PoSSUM citizen-scientists take turns using the ASD TerraSpec Halo in the field 

The course culminated in a one-week capstone field experience at the San Francisco Volcanic Field in Northern Arizona; this location was selected as areas of the volcanic field have been used by NASA for testing techniques for exploration in a simulated extraterrestrial terrain environment. The ASD TerraSpec Halo instrument was provided on behalf of Malvern Panalytical as part paid rental / part sponsorship.

The ASD TerraSpec Halo is like a tool out of Star Trek. The students – some college, but the majority post-docs and beyond – had some experience with mass spectrometers and spectroradiometers, but nothing like the use of this ASD mineral analyzer before. The ease of use of the instrument, and the software, was amazing. The battery life of the spectrometer was incredible. In my teaching, I was able to point out absorption features to the students, as the TerraSpec Halo shows you not just minerals, but also the measured spectrum; I was not familiar with some of the alteration minerals that came up on the instrument’s screen, so the students and I would look this up together, which proved to be a good learning opportunity for myself as well.” – Uly Horodyskyj


A NASA-sponsored research project, the GeoHeuristic Operational Strategies Test (GHOST), including CU Boulder’s Department of Geological Sciences Associate Professor Dr. Brian Hynek, selected the VIS-NIR-SWIR ASD TerraSpec Halo to maximize the speed, efficiency and scientific return of Mars rover sample collection. The instrument was sponsored and provided on behalf of Malvern Panalytical. The project used the spectrometer to simulate the function of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) ChemCam and Mars 2020 rover SuperCam.

Rather than using mechanical rovers or replica Mars instrumentation, GHOST utilizes human “rovers” and off-the-shelf field portable instruments to isolate the variable of the scientific decision-making process. This eliminates the need for mission-specific instrumentation, communication and data relays, or complex engineering requirements, while still providing the same basic information, such as mineralogy.

During the research project, the TerraSpec Halo allowed for rapid data acquisition of in-situ outcrops, similar to the data gathered by Mars rovers, and allowed the rover operations team to rapidly traverse the field site near Salt Lake City, Utah, maximizing the number of data points gathered.

Full range spectroscopy provides a wealth of compositional information and is a valuable tool in planetary exploration. The use of the ASD TerraSpec Halo, and field-portable VIS-NIR-SWIR, as an analog for rover instrumentation was sufficient for science team operations; the teams were able to efficiently conduct their site investigation and analysis of operational methods using terrestrial analog instrumentation. – Brian Hynek

Why is this research important? 

Mineralogical variations are significant because geochemical differences contain clues regarding whether a geologic environment was habitable or capable of preserving evidence of prior life. Without in-situ VIS-NIR-SWIR data, there could be missed critical information for scientific missions and interpretations. The selection of the ASD TerraSpec Halo for these research projects to measure compositional information represent some of the initial steps towards advancing scientific study and exploration of Mars.

The best we can do, at the moment, is study extreme environments on Earth that are going to be the most similar to Mars. Places like Iceland, the Atacama Desert in Chile, these volcanic fields in Arizona… these are excellent analogs where you cannot only test the equipment but also look at these markers of weathering and presence of water. If we find something similar on Mars, we know what the Earth equivalent is – we can match it and we know exactly what that geochemical history is.” – Uly Horodyskyj


Written by: Malvern Panalytical – (www.materials-talks.com)

NEW Copper CRMs

ARMI MBH excited to add five new copper CRMs to their product portfolio. Copper can be alloyed with a wide range of elements enabling highly specific functions and applications. The large compositional range of copper alloys means that high-quality, matrix-matched reference materials are needed for proper analysis of each alloy.

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In addition to their structural properties, CDA 510, CDA 655, and CDA 955 are EPA-registered as antimicrobial alloys. More information on the antimicrobial properties of copper, including a complete list of EPA-registered alloys, can be found at the EPA Antimicrobial Stewardship Website for Copper Alloys.

CDA 510 (IARM-Cu510-18) is a phosphor bronze, which is commonly used for fasteners and spring components. It is also excellent for soldering and brazing applications and has high conductivity, which lends itself well to electrical connectors and other electronic usages. CDA 510 has certified values for the grade-specified elements Cu, Pb, Sn, Zn, and P and a reference value for Fe. Additionally, certified values are provided for Ag, C, Ni, and O, and reference values are given for 32 more elements.

A high silicon bronze, CDA 655 (IARM-Cu655-18) is widely appreciated for its aesthetic and its antimicrobial properties in architectural and decorative applications. Its high resistance to corrosion means that it is often used for fasteners, piston rings, and other hardware in marine applications. In addition to the specified elements, Cu, Pb, Fe, Zn, Mn, Si, and Ni, this CRM is also certified for Al and Sn, and has reference data for 21 more elements.

CDA 955 (IARM-Cu955-18) is a nickel aluminum bronze alloy. In addition to being another EPA-registered alloy for microbe resistance, it is one of the strongest non-ferrous alloys, thanks to its high Ni content. The high hardness rating and good corrosion resistance makes this a common choice for marine and aircraft parts, in addition to high wear and high impact applications. This CRM has certified values of the grade-specified components Cu, Fe, Al, Ni, and Mn, as well as Ag, Co, Cr, P, Pb, Si, Sn, and Zn. Reference values are provided for an additional 18 elements.

A tin bronze alloy also known as Navy G is CDA 903 (IARM-Cu903-18). CDA 903 is a type of gear bronze, a family of bronze alloys used for wear resistance in high velocity situations. Gear bronzes compose most of the non-ferrous alloys for these applications. As the name implies, Navy G is widely used in marine environments because of its strong corrosion resistance. The new CRM has certified values for alloy-specified elements, Cu, Sn, Pb, Zn, Ni, Co, Fe, and Pb. Good reference values are given for the elements Sb, S, Al, and Si, which have maximum values specified. A certified value is also given for O, and reference values for 18 other elements.

Lastly, we are adding CDA 360 (IARM-Cu360-18) to our portfolio, which is a free cutting brass. Thanks to its high Pb content, CDA 360 is an excellent machining alloy with a 100% machinability rating and it is used as a comparison for the machinability of all other alloys. It is an excellent choice for use in applications that require drilling, turning, milling and other high-speed machining processes.

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The grade specifications for CDA 360 Grade include values for Cu, Fe, Pb, and Zn. Our CRM has certified values for the four specified elements, as well as Ag, Al, As, Bi, C, Cd, Co, Cr, Mn, Ni, P, Sb, Si, and Sn. Reference values are given for 14 more elements.

If you have any questions about these new products or other products, please reach out to our experts for help.

Written by: James Haddad PhD  – Posted by: ARMI MBH (www.armi.com)


In the previous blog about mineralogical monitoring for the aluminum industry, we discussed the added value of accurate on-line and at-line mineralogical monitoring for bauxite ore. The advantages of X-ray diffraction (XRD) and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR) that provide information about the mineralogical composition and important process parameters of bauxite were discussed. This information is not only important for bauxite mining but also for efficient downstream processing in the alumina refinery.

Step II. Alumina refining


Alumina refineries process bauxite ore to produce alumina, which is then used to extract aluminium metal. Alumina (aluminium oxide) is a white granular material.

Figure 1. Alumina refining process (image courtesy of Australian Aluminium Council Ltd)

The process to produce alumina from bauxite ore is called the “Bayer process”, developed by Carl Josef Bayer in 1888 (figure 1). It consists of four steps: digestion, clarification, precipitation and calcination.

After milling, bauxite is mixed with caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) under high temperature and pressure. Alumina dissolves from the aluminium bearing phases (excluding clays). Undissolved impurities settle down as a fine red mud, which after few recycling steps, is discarded as waste.

The solution of alumina in caustic soda (liquor) goes through further clarification, filtration and precipitation steps. Alumina crystals are recovered from the caustic solution by mechanically stirring the solution in open-top tanks. The precipitated material (called hydrate) is washed and dried at temperatures exceeding 1000°C. The dry white anhydrous aluminium oxide powder (alumina) is cooled and conveyed to storage. Alumina powder is further used to extract metallic aluminium using electrolytic baths. Caustic soda is recovered and returned to the start of the process and used again.

Let’s discuss the effect of mineralogy on the above process. Temperature required for the digestion of diaspore α-AlO(OH) and boehmite γ-AlO(OH) (both called monohydrate alumina phases, MHA) is higher than for gibbsite γ-Al(OH)3 (called trihydrate alumina, THA). Therefore, the temperature for effective digestion of bauxite depends on the ratio between the different aluminium containing mineral phases.

In addition, the consumption of caustic soda per ton of bauxite depends on the amount of silica impurities: clays and quartz. Under certain conditions, these minerals react with caustic soda and consume part of the reagents from the process. Low-temperature digestion suffers from the reagent loss to clays only, but during high-temperature digestion, both quartz and clay minerals react with caustic soda, increasing reagent consumption and costs.

Therefore, the knowledge about the mineralogical composition of bauxite is an important factor that defines the efficiency of the Bayer process.

Analysis of alumina for quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA)

Mineralogical monitoring not only adds value for the analysis of the raw material bauxite but also for the quality control of the final product from the Bayer process, alumina. XRD is the only suitable tool to distinguish between the different modifications of alumina (eg. α-Al2O3, γ-Al2O3) which defines the quality of dry alumina powder, as well as particle size and impurities.

The knowledge of the different modifications is important to predict and optimize the behavior during the smelting process. γ-Al2O3 is desired for the electrolysis since it dissolves more easily during the smelting process than α-Al2O3. For that reason, the ratio of the different sub-α and α-Al2O3 modifications of alumina must be monitored. The analysis of α-Al2O3 can be done with a classical straight-line calibration of the α-Al2O3 peaks or using full pattern fitting methods. The advantage of using the full information of the XRD pattern is the simultaneous quantification of all sub-α-Al2O3 modifications. Even a small fraction of 0.5 wt.% α-Al2O3 can be detected and quantified. Figure 2 shows a measurement of dry alumina powder using X-ray diffraction. The majority of the sample consists of g-alumina, with only 0.5% of a-alumina.

Figure 2. Automatic γ-Al2O3 and α-Al2O3 quantification of dry alumina using Aeris Minerals, measurement time is 10 minutes.

Impact of particle size

Particle size impacts directly on the rate of dissolution of the alumina in the cryolite bath and is therefore another important variable. Furthermore, fines are an issue from both health and safety as well as a product transport point of view, so particle size distribution needs to be carefully controlled. The ideal particle size distribution is defined between 45μm and 150μm to prevent problems with dissolution in the cryolite bath and the accumulation of fines during processing that cause conveying and process instabilities and health issues.

Figure 3 Typical display of on-line alumina process data

The application of on-line particle size analysis allows aluminium processors to operate more efficiently and to produce a more consistent product for downstream unit operations. Economic benefits in the form of reduced waste, reduced energy consumption, reduced manpower and increased throughput are achieved. The availability of industrially relevant systems, at a cost that can be recovered in a relatively short time, makes on-line analysis an increasingly attractive option.

Red mud – monitoring of waste products using XRD

Red mud is the bauxite residue generated during the refinement of bauxite into alumina using the Bayer process. It is composed of various oxide compounds, including iron oxides which give its red color.

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Depending on the bauxite grade about 1.3 to 2.2. tons of red mud are produced per ton of alumina. The treatment, long-term storage and re-use of the red mud is one of the challenges of alumina refining. The adequate analytical tools for the control of mineralogy, chemistry and physical properties of red mud are essential for the correct, environmentally friendly management of the waste product.

The complete mineralogical composition of the red mud sample determined by XRD is shown in Figure 4. The main part of the sample consists of the insoluble impurities of bauxite (titanium and iron oxides) and products of chemical reactions, which occur during the digestion steps. However, in this example, valuable aluminium bearing phases such as gibbsite, boehmite and diaspore still comprise about 25% of the red mud sample. This indicates that the processing, in particular the digestion, was not executed to the maximum level of efficiency.

Figure 4. Automatic quantitative mineralogical analyses of red mud using Aeris Minerals. Measurement time is 15 minutes.

Comprehensive analysis of bauxite and red mud mineralogy along with the analysis of digestion conditions should be performed to understand the root cause for the lost efficiency.

Value of analytical monitoring of mineralogy and particle size for the Bayer process

Alumina refining is a complex process the efficiency of which is directly related to the mineralogy of the bauxite ore. Fast and accurate mineralogical information throughout the entire process, speed of the XRD analyses, increased safety for the operators and the possibility to automate makes XRD a reliable and economic alternative compared to the traditional analytical methods such as wet chemistry and does justify the initial investment.

In our next blog, we will discuss the added value of mineralogical analyses for the next step in the bauxite-to-aluminum process: the conversion of refined alumina to aluminum metal.


Written by: Uwe König, Posted by: Malvern Panalytical – (www,materials-talks.com)