X-Ray Scattering

X-Ray Diffraction (XRD)

X-ray Diffraction is an analytical technique that utilizes an inherent property of the x-ray beam - the wavelength - and the laws of physics that determine how that beam interacts with matter to characterize materials. Classically, the technique has been applied primarily to well-ordered crystalline materials to determine crystal structures, identify phase composition, measure stress, preferred orientation and crystallinity, but the field also encompasses the characterization of non- or semi-crystalline materials via small angle x-ray scattering (SAXS). Scattering experiments at very small angles can study electron density structures in materials on size scales greater than the electron density contrast due to atomic ordering observed in diffraction from crystalline materials and can provide information on size, shape, and distribution of electron density contrasted domains in polymers, dilute suspensions, gels, emulsions and more. Diffuse scattering to wide angles can study atomic structure in non-crystalline materials.


MCL maintains multiple X-Ray Diffractometers.

  • PANalytical XPert Pro MPD theta-theta Diffractometer (N-008 MSC Bldg)
  • PANalytical Empryean X-Ray Diffractometer (N-008 MSC Bldg)
  • PANalytical X'Pert3 MRD 4-circle / High Resolution (N-008 MSC Bldg)
  • Rigaku DMAX-Rapid II Microdiffractometer (N-008 MSC Bldg)
  • XENOCS Xeuss 2.0 (N-008 MSC)
  • Multiwire Backreflection Laue (N-008 MSC Bldg)
Sample Requirements

Sample requirements vary widely with instrument and the analysis required. Please contact a technical staff member to discuss your needs.

User Policies, Procedures, and Training

All users of analytical x-ray systems at Penn State are required to complete x-ray safety training through Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) prior to receiving instrument training. For more information on these requirements, see the EHS web site. Equipment training is provided at the hourly rate for equipment and analyst. Group training is available and can reduce cost per student significantly. Contact a technical staff member for more information.

Instrument Source Goniometer Optics Focus Mode Detector Applications
PANalytical XPert Pro MPD Cu theta-theta para-focusing/parallel beam line Reflection PIXcel 1D powder/bulk/thin film
PANalytical Empryean Cu, Mo theta-theta para-focusing line Reflection PIXcel 3D powder/bulk
PANalytical X'Pert3 MRD Cu 4-circle high resolution/para-focusing/focusing lens line/point Reflection (1) PIXcel 3D and (1) Mini-prop Xe bulk/thin film
Rigaku DMAX-Rapid II Cu, Mo omega/phi rotation microfocus collimation point - microfocus Reflection or Transmission Curved image plate powder/bulk/thin film/single crystal
XENOCS Xeuss 2.0* SAXS/WAXS Cu none collimation scatterless slits - point Transmission and GIXRD Dectris Pilatus 200K polymers, nanoparticles, nanocomposites, etc.
Multiwire Laue white 3-axis collimation point Back-reflection Multiwire area single crystal

*coming Jan/Feb 2017

Small Angle X-Ray Scattering (SAXS)

SAXS uses Cu Ka X-ray scattering at very small angles to probe structure in zones of electron density contrast with sizes in the range of 1nm to 100nm. Such structures can include particulate systems, multi-phase systems, pore structures, emulsions, biological and cellular structures and others. Information about size, shape, dispersity, periodicity, interphase boundary area and solution properties can be obtained. Specimens may be solids, films, powders, liquids, gels, crystalline or amorphous. Applications in polymers and biological samples are abundant and well known.

Typical Applications
  • Structure in polymers, polymer blends, solutions, copolymer
  • Biological membrane structures
  • Structure of catalysts, xerogels, functionalized silica, coal and other porous materials
  • Nano precipitate size and dispersity in alloys
Sample Requirements

Solids and films must be thin enough to be X-ray transparent and thick enough to present adequate sample volume in transmission. Estimates of nominal thickness are 1-2 mm for polymers and biological samples, 0.3 - 0.8 mm for ceramics, 0.05 - 0.2 mm for metals and alloys, 1 mm for water solutions and 1.5-2 mm for organic solvent solutions. The area required is as small as 1 mm2. The beam cross section is approximately 0.8 mm diameter.

 Xeuss 2.0 HR SAXS/WAXS

The instrument will be used to expand the characterization capabilities of the lab, in particular for grazing incidence applications (GISAXS/GIWAXS), 2D WAXS measurements and simultaneous SAXS/WAXS measurements during dynamic studies, using shear or temperature cells. Such features will be especially useful for the study of organo-photovoltaic thin film structural characterization, polymer crystallization, block copolymer composites, ionic and conjugated polymers, rheo-SAXS, bio-synthetic hybrid materials and ultimately biological samples in solutions.  


  • 2 Detectors
  • Simultaneous SAXS/WAXS
  • Adjustable Sample to Detector Distance
  • GISAXS - GIWAXS (previously, transmission only)
  • Automated Alignment - Scatterless Slits
  • Non-ambient
  • Mapping Lamella Orientation
  • Automated Absolute Intensities

Solid state, “radiation hard” detector allows measurement of the direct beam through a semi-transparent foil on every sample.