A new technique could reveal how graphite minerals are formed and what types of minerals they contain, researchers say.
The technique, which uses atomic force microscopy, was described in the latest issue of the journal Nature Communications.
Scientists have previously used atomic force microscope to analyze the structure of graphites, but their work was limited to examining a few types of structures.
In this new study, the researchers took a different approach, using an atomic force analysis to see how the graphite’s structure changes with the addition of another compound, called graphite carbonate, to the graphitic material.
By comparing the change in structure of the graphites with the changes in the compound, they were able to determine which types of mineral were present in the graphic material.
The researchers also used the technique to analyze samples of graphitic minerals, such as graphite lews, from different geological formations and geologically important sites.
This new technique, developed by researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University in Vienna, allows researchers to study a much wider variety of mineralogical structures and composition than previously possible.
“By focusing on the chemistry of the mineral and not just the mineral structure, the new technique provides us with a better understanding of the chemistry and the properties of graphitically formed minerals,” said the paper’s senior author, Christopher McLean, a professor of physics at the University.
Explore further: Researchers discover an ‘extraordinary’ set of crystals in graphite source AP article By analyzing the structure and composition of graphitized materials, researchers are able to tell which types are present in a sample of graphitized material and which ones are absent, McLean said.
A graphitic sample containing a different set of minerals is usually the same size and shape as a normal graphite sample, but the presence or absence of certain minerals can cause the graphitized sample to change in size and/or shape.
When the researchers looked at graphite samples from a range of geologic formations in the Austrian Alps, they found that they were almost entirely composed of graph-rich material, but they found some graphitized minerals, which are often absent from graphitic rocks, were present.
Using the technique, the scientists could find which types and minerals of graphically formed material were present and which were absent.
To date, the method has been applied to analyze minerals from two other types of graphizable minerals, graphite oxide and graphite nitrate.
Previous research has shown that graphite ore from the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean can be formed by combining different types of ore minerals into a common graphitic form, Mclean said.