Access to and training in X-ray diffraction analysis

Project Title: Access to and training in X-ray diffraction analysis

Long Title (if desired): Access to and training in X-ray diffraction analysis across departments and divisions

Project Lead's Name: John Rakovan

Project Lead's Email:

Project Lead's Phone: 513-529-2345

Project Lead's Division: CAS

Primary Department: Geology and Environmental Earth Science

Other Team Members and their emails:

  • Mahmud Khan (Physics)
  • Catherine Almquist (College of Engineering and Computing)
  • Keith Hohn (College of Engineering and Computing)
  • Hang Ren (Chemistry)
  • Mark Krekeler (Geology; Hamilton & Oxford)
  • Hailiang Dong (Geology)

List Departments Benefiting or Affected by this proposal:

  • Geology and Environmental Earth Science
  • Physics
  • Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Chemical, Paper, and Biomedical Engineering
  • Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering

Estimated Number of Under-Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 171

Estimated Number of Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 61

Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem: One of the most utilized scientific instruments in STEM disciplines, across departments and divisions at Miami University is the powder X-ray diffractometer (PXRD). This is because of the fundamental need to identify and characterize solid materials, for example, minerals in soil or the products of a chemical reaction, that are studied in these disciplines. Another hallmark of the PXRD is its ease of use and simplicity of data collection. Inexperienced students can be taught to properly and safely use a PXRD in a short time. Thus, the combination of the usefulness of this technique and the ability to train many students at all levels (from first-year undergraduate through Ph.D.) to use It make the PXRD unique in teaching and research, and preparing students for high-tech jobs in STEM fields.

Miami University has only one PXRD, which was purchased in 1992 through an NSF grant to the Department of Geology. It has been a workhorse in teaching and research for almost 30 years and several thousand students in geology, physics, chemistry, and engineering have gained valuable experience and training in the application of PXRD data during that time. Many of those students went on to careers where their experience in XRD at Miami was vital to landing their first job. Case in point; a recent industry seminar speaker (Spring 2019), Harry Rowe, Technical Director, Geology and Geochemistry at Premier Oilfield Group said that he could place several of our recent graduates in his company if they had experience in PXRD use and data interpretation. Our current instrument is on its last leg and has not been supported by the manufacturer for more than a decade. To continue the training of students in this powerful technique, which is seeing ever increasing demand for use in industry and academics, we are proposing to acquire a new state of the art PXRD instrument for all of the physical sciences and engineering at Miami.

How would you describe the innovation and/or the significance of your project: Although sample identification or confirmation is the most important and utilized application, PXRD can be used for much more. New advances in instrumentation such as rapid acquisition detectors and focused X-ray beams allow for PXRD use in crystal structure solution and refinement; quantification of components in a sample with multiple constituents; alignment of crystals; particle size and strain analyses; quality control in manufacturing of materials and starting materials for manufacturing; real-time changes in materials under changing environmental conditions, etc. Because of these advances in technology and applications, PXRD is seeing a great increase in use by many different types of companies in the manufacturing, analytical, and environmental sectors.

How will you assess the success of the project: We see three specific outcomes:

  1. Students will learn the proper and safe usage of a PXRD.
  2. Students will use PXRD data in experience-based learning and research and will learn the fundamentals of data reduction and interpretation.
  3. Students will be better prepared to use PXRD instruments and data in industry and academics graduation.

To assess these outcomes, we will deploy a student survey in courses that utilize the PXRD facilities and incorporate specific questions into our graduation survey to evaluate the impact of the new instrument on those courses. Survey results can be compared with past surveys that assessed student opinions on the adequacy of the department's analytical facilities. We will compile information for graduating students to see how many courses they take that utilize the PXRD.

Financial Information

Total Amount Requested: $75,000

Budget Details: As a major analytical instrument the departments participating in this proposal realize that a substantial contribution on their part is necessary. To that end, Geology and Environmental Earth Science will contribute $75,000, and Chemistry & Biochemistry, Physics, and Chemical, Paper, & Biomedical Engineering will each contribute $10,000 for a total matching contribution of $110,000. We are requesting $75,000 from the Tech Fee. The instrument will be housed in room 46 Shideler Hall, which was built during the recent renovation to accommodate a PXRD. The department of Geology and Environmental Earth Science has a full-time lab manager who will be the primary person responsible for instrument upkeep and training of users. Additional training on the use of the instrument and in-depth data analysis will be conducted by Professor John Rakovan in his course GLG 432/532 Powder X-ray Diffraction. Introductory training on data processing and use will be done in several courses including GLG 201, GLG 311, CHM 454/554, and on a one-on-one basis for independent studies (177, 277, ... 677). The instrument will be available to all Miami students, staff and faculty for use, free of charge. Because of the major interdepartmental and interdivisional usage of the PXRD, it is one of only a few instruments/facilities on the university's Instrumentation Laboratory (IL) equipment list of supported instruments. The new PXRD will also be supported by the IL in this capacity. Attached as supporting information are:

  1. A .pdf of emails with department commitments of matching funds.
  2. A detailed list of courses that will utilize the PXRD (with estimates of students affected).
  3. Three quotes for PXRD instruments.

Is this a multi-year request: No

Please address how, if at all, this project aligns with University,  Divisional, Departmental or Center strategic goals: Hands-on training and usage of major scientific instrumentation in STEM fields, experienced-based learning through application of real-world technologies, interdepartmental and interdivisional collaboration in teaching and research, alignment of teaching opportunities and learning outcomes with industry needs are all aspects of this proposal that align with specific University, Divisional, Departmental or Center strategic goals.