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Why is X-ray diffraction testing technique so useful?

X-ray diffraction (XRD) is a rapid analytical technique that is used for phase identification of a crystalline material. Every crystalline substance produces a unique diffraction pattern and that is a fingerprint of the material. In the case of polycrystalline material each phase produces its pattern independently of the others and this is the reason that XRDanalysis is suitable for characterization and identification of phases.

XRD analysis can be carried out on a wide range of materials that includes powders, thin films, moderately rough surfaces and even surfaces like clay. Before an XRD test the sample is finely ground, homogenised so information on unit cell dimensions as well as measurement of purity can be derived accurately. An XRD lab uses the XRD techniques to identify unknown material from even a very small sample quantity.
Pharmaceutical companies use XRD tests as it is possible to analyse solids, liquids and powders; forms in which drugs are manufactured. X-ray diffraction tests inconsistencies in manufactured batches, helps in new drug development,  detection of impurities, degree of crystallinity and presence of polymorphism. Compatibility of excipients with active ingredients, properties of dosage such as dissolution rate of active ingredients can be derived from XRD tests. XRD labs provide services like data collection,qualitative and quantitative phase analysis and stability determination of drugs in various packaging and environments.

XRD analysis is used by the food industry because it ensures quality control so products meet regulatory standards. An XRD lab can help to develop a product that has just the right flavour, tasteand texture as desired by consumers. Food manufacturers can carefully monitor the composition of new and developfood products so that the taste, aroma and look appeal to consumers. Most food manufacturers in the world employ XRD analysis to ensure sugar and salt combinations and degree of crystallinity so as not toimpact shelf life of the product. Canned foods need to be safe and taste good so the film coating on the packaging is analysed with XRD to ensure that contaminants do not leach into the food.

Besides chemical analysis of food there is also a need for the chemical analysis of products in the cosmetic industry. The need for the product to be safe but effective drives the cosmetic industry. XRD tests help to monitor the production process so that there is minimum waste as often reworking on a product is required for lack of quality standards in cosmetics. Some cosmetics are considered to be over the counter products and these need to meet the prescribed regulations.

Contact trace XRD analysis has numerous other applications. In forensic science XRD is used to identify stains, patches, hair, glass fragments, paint flakes etc. which can help to catch a criminal suspect. In geology XRD is used to characterise individual crystal structures which help define a mineral. Since x-ray diffraction can detect the defects in crystals microelectronics uses it to test silicon, galliumand other crystalline materials used in the circuits.