Chemical Sciences: A Manual for CSIR-UGC National Eligibility Test for Lectureship and JRF/X-ray scattering techniques

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This is an X-ray diffraction pattern formed when X-rays are focused on a crystalline material, in this case a protein. Each dot, called a reflection, forms from the coherent interference of scattered X-rays passing through the crystal.

X-ray scattering techniques are a family of non-destructive analytical techniques which reveal information about the crystallographic structure, chemical composition, and physical properties of materials and thin films. These techniques are based on observing the scattered intensity of an X-ray beam hitting a sample as a function of incident and scattered angle, polarization, and wavelength or energy.

X-ray diffraction techniques[edit]

X-ray diffraction finds the geometry or shape of a molecule using X-rays. X-ray diffraction techniques are based on the elastic scattering of X-rays from structures that have long range order. The most comprehensive description of scattering from crystals is given by the dynamical theory of diffraction.[1]

  • Single-crystal X-ray diffraction is a technique used to solve the complete structure of crystalline materials, ranging from simple inorganic solids to complex macromolecules, such as proteins.
  • Powder diffraction (XRD) is a technique used to characterise the crystallographic structure, crystallite size (grain size), and preferred orientation in polycrystalline or powdered solid samples. Powder diffraction is commonly used to identify unknown substances, by comparing diffraction data against a database maintained by the International Centre for Diffraction Data. It may also be used to characterize heterogeneous solid mixtures to determine relative abundance of crystalline compounds and, when coupled with lattice refinement techniques, such as Rietveld refinement, can provide structural information on unknown materials. Powder diffraction is also a common method for determining strains in crystalline materials. An effect of the finite crystallite sizes is seen as a broadening of the peaks in an X-ray diffraction as is explained by the Scherrer Equation.
  • Thin film diffraction and grazing incidence X-ray diffraction may be used to characterize the crystallographic structure and preferred orientation of substrate-anchored thin films.
  • High-resolution X-ray diffraction is used to characterize thickness, crystallographic structure, and strain in thin epitaxial films. It employs parallel-beam optics.
  • X-ray pole figure analysis enables one to analyze and determine the distribution of crystalline orientations within a crystalline thin-film sample.
  • X-ray rocking curve analysis is used to quantify grain size and mosaic spread in crystalline materials.

Scattering techniques[edit]

Elastic scattering[edit]

Materials that do not have long range order may also be studied by scattering methods that rely on elastic scattering of monochromatic X-rays.

Inelastic scattering[edit]

When the energy and angle of the inelastically scattered X-rays are monitored scattering techniques can be used to probe the electronic band structure of materials.


  1. Azároff, L. V.; R. Kaplow, N. Kato, R. J. Weiss, A. J. C. Wilson, R. A. Young (1974). X-ray diffraction. McGraw-Hill. 
  2. Glatter, O.; O. Kratky (1982). Small Angle X-ray Scattering. Academic Press.