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Theory and Practice of Electron Microprobe Analysis
Geochemistry 575

For an official catalog description and prerequisites, click here

This course covers the principles, techniques and applications of electron microprobe analysis. Topics covered include X-ray theory, principles of electron microprobe analysis, sample preparation techniques, hands-on analysis using the electron microprobe, and techniques of instrument calibration and data reduction. The emphasis is on analysis of geological samples, and participation in this class is required for students who plan to use the electron microprobe as part of their thesis research. The class time will be divided between lecture and hand-on sample preparation and analysis time.

I'm planning to use this class as a user-school for students and others who plan to use the electron microprobe as part of their research programs. The class will be geared towards quantitative analysis of geological, mining, and materials samples, and will cover SEM morphological imaging in less detail. The class will be taught as 6 3-hr long sessions, each consisting of a lecture portion and a hands-on lab portion. There will be a final exam at the end of the course, and the course grade will be based upon this, as well as class participation. The class lab fee will be used to cover cost of xeroxing reading material and machine time used during labs.  

Class syllabus

Class 1

Theory and history of x-ray analysis. Introduction to instrumentation. Lab session will consist of a detailed tour of the SX-100 facility, and familiarization with the SX-100 instrument.

Reading: Handout #1 "Electron Probe Microanalysis, sections 2.1 and 2.2

Download Powerpoint file of notes

Class 2

User's introduction to the SX-100. Navigating in Cameca software. What can you do with this instrument, and how?

Reading: Handout #1, sections 2.3, 2.4, and 2.5 

Download Powerpoint file of notes

Class 3

Imaging techniques. The theory behind acquisition of scanning electron, backscatter electron, and X-ray images and maps. The lab will include hands-on collection of electron and X-ray images.

Reading: Handout #1, section 2.6

Download Powerpoint file of notes  

Class 4

Sample preparation and sample mapping. Lab session will include demonstration of sample mounting and polishing techniques.

Reading: Handout #2 "Sample Preparation"

Download Powerpoint file of notes

Class 5-6

Electron microprobe calibration, data acquisition, and data reduction techniques. Includes discussion of standards, analytical error and assessment of quality of data. Lab session will include demonstration of calibration procedures, quantitative and semi-quantitative analyses.

Reading: Handout #1, sections 2.7, 2.8, 2.9.1-2.9.8

Download Powerpoint file of notes 

Class 7

Data management and presentation. Will include discussion and demonstration of procedures for getting your quantitative and imaging data from the Cameca into your thesis or paper. Familiarization with data output formats and basic techniques of image manipulation. 

Reading: Handout #1, sections 2.9.9-2.9.12


Download Powerpoint file of notes


Reading Assignment #1

Reading Assignment #2

Example Final #1

Example Final #2

Selected References

These books, along with a number of others, are available in the microprobe lab.

Potts, P.J., 1987. A Handbook of Silicate Rock Analysis. Blackie:Glasgow

Potts, P.J., Bowles, J.F.W., Reed, S.J.B., and Cave, M.R., 1995. Microprobe Techniques in Earth Sciences. Chapman and Hall:London

Reed, S.J.B., 1993. Electron Microprobe Analysis. Cambridge University Press:Cambridge

Reed, S.J.B., 1996. Electron Microprobe and Scanning Electron Microscopy in Geology. Cambridge University Press:Cambridge

For students who plan to use electron microprobe results as a major part of their thesis research, I would recommend purchasing Reed, 1996. This book is available from Amazon for $29.95 (