X-ray Analysis of Sand

Dexter Perkins
University of North Dakota
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Aug 7, 2006


This is an x-ray diffraction analysis of six sand samples and comparison with hand specimens.

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This exercise is designed for a mid/upper-level undergraduate geology course on the principles of mineralogy.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should have knowledge of basic chemistry and of minerals equivalent to what they would learn in an introductory geology class.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity is the 18th of 36 mineralogy exercises and is used around the middle of the course.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Learn practical aspects and limits of X-ray diffraction.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • Learn to critically evaluate analytical results.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

This is an x-ray diffraction analysis of six sand samples and comparison with hand specimens. Students look at each of the six samples under the binocular microscope and note such useful properties as number of minerals, cleavage/fracture, color, shape, grain size, roundness, and degree of sorting. Then they grind up small amounts of each sample and mount them on glass slides for X-ray. Students write all sample descriptions and X-ray analysis results in their lab notebook. Then they identify the minerals in each sample, determine where they are from, and write a report summarizing all results.

Determining whether students have met the goals

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