Tables for
Volume C
Mathematical, physical and chemical tables
Edited by E. Prince

International Tables for Crystallography (2006). Vol. C, ch. 3.5, p. 171

Section Thin fragments, particles, and flakes

N. J. Tighe,a J. R. Fryerb and H. M. Flowerc

a42 Lema Lane, Palm Coast, FL 32137-2417, USA,bDepartment of Chemistry, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, and cDepartment of Metallurgy, Imperial College, London SW7, England Thin fragments, particles, and flakes

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Occasionally, processed powders and small flakes of many minerals are thin enough to be examined directly. For powders and chips that are not electron transparent, additional crushing in a mortar and pestle, or between glass or ceramic plates is required (Amelinckx, 1964[link]; Goodhew, 1972[link]). In some layer-structure minerals such as mica, graphite, and hematite, fracture occurs parallel to easy cleavage planes and produces fragments that are thin and parallel-sided over extensive areas. Most crushed flakes, however, are slightly wedge shaped and are electron transparent only near their edges.

The crushing stresses can introduce defects such as twins, micro cracks, and dislocations, which can be imaged and accounted for in diffraction analysis. During the crushing process, it is possible to introduce contamination such as wear debris, dust, and other foreign particles.

Thin flakes can be cut from a bulk specimen with a microtome that uses glass or diamond knives. This ultramicrotomy method is useful for producing flakes from cross sections of multilayer materials such as coated metals and multiphase ceramic devices. The bulk sample to be microtomed is encapsulated in epoxy or plastic; 20 to 80 nm slices are cut and then collected in a water bath. The cutting process produces surface striations and stress-induced damage that may interfere with the structure analysis, but should not affect the composition.

The particles and flakes are placed in an organic solvent, ultrasonically separated, and dispersed onto holey carbon films. Flakes can be stripped from a bulk sample with replicating tape (extraction replica) and redispersed onto a holey carbon film. The particles on the grid can be coated with an additional carbon film to provide an enveloping and conducting preparation. Instead of a holey carbon film, a supported collodion or other suitable organic film may be used (Zvyagin, 1967[link]).


Amelinckx, S. (1964). The direct observation of dislocations. New York: Academic Press.
Goodhew, P. J. (1972). Specimen preparation in materials science. Practical methods in electron microscopy, edited by A. M. Glauert, pp. 3–180. Amsterdam: North-Holland.
Zvyagin, B. B. (1967). Electron diffraction analysis of clay mineral structures. New York: Plenum.

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