Better Living Through Minerals: X-Ray Diffraction of Household Products

Barb Dutrow
,
Louisiana State University
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Summary

X-ray diffraction is a quick and valuable tool for identifying minerals. Minerals are an integral portion of our everyday life, in addition to composing our planet! They help bring electricity into our homes and remove our bathtub rings. In this lab, students analyze the X-ray diffraction patterns of three household cleansers, Ajax, White Magic, and Soft Scrub, in order to identify the abrasive minerals in each.

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Context

Audience

This activity is designed for an undergraduate required course in mineralogy and is generally for sophomore or junior level students.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should be familiar with XRD as a technique and how to analyze XRD data.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity is a stand-alone exercise, but is part of a larger volume of classroom and laboratory activities from "Teaching Mineralogy," a workbook published by the Mineralogical Society of America, Brady, J., Mogk, D. W., and Perkins, D., (editors), 1997,406 pp.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

This activity should aid students in using XRD as a technique to identify minerals in common household products. It should strengthen their ability to read XRD data output.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

This activity aids students' ability to read and analyze data.

Other skills goals for this activity

This activity should strengthen a student's ability to operate analytical equipment and to synthesize ideas from data and write them in a laboratory report.

Description of the activity/assignment

X-ray diffraction is a quick and valuable tool for identifying minerals. Minerals are an integral portion of our everyday life, in addition to composing our planet! They help bring electricity into our homes and remove our bathtub rings. In this lab, students analyze the X-ray diffraction patterns of three household cleansers, Ajax, White Magic, and Soft Scrub, in order to identify the abrasive minerals in each.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students have met the goals of this activity if they answer the questions at the end of the exercise completely and accurately.

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Supporting references/URLs

Brady, J., Mogk, D. W., and Perkins, D., (editors), 1997, Teaching Mineralogy, a workbook published by the Mineralogical Society of America, 406 pp.

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