Tables for
Volume H
Powder diffraction
Edited by C. J. Gilmore, J. A. Kaduk and H. Schenk

International Tables for Crystallography (2018). Vol. H, ch. 3.9, pp. 365-366

Section Preferred orientation

I. C. Madsen,a* N. V. Y. Scarlett,a R. Kleebergb and K. Knorrc

aCSIRO Mineral Resources, Private Bag 10, Clayton South 3169, Victoria, Australia,bTU Bergakademie Freiberg, Institut für Mineralogie, Brennhausgasse 14, Freiberg, D-09596, Germany, and cBruker AXS GmbH, Oestliche Rheinbrückenstr. 49, 76187 Karlsruhe, Germany
Correspondence e-mail: Preferred orientation

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In order to generate peak intensities that accurately represent the intensity-weighted reciprocal lattice, the crystallites in the powder must not only be sufficient in number, but they must also be randomly oriented. In other words, each crystal orientation should have the same probability of diffracting. Preferred orientation can arise when particles align in the sample holder according to their morphology. This is most common with platy or needle-like materials and the effect on the diffraction pattern is the observation of enhanced intensity along specific crystallographic directions with a subsequent decrease of intensity along other directions.

A number of sample-presentation methods can be used to minimize preferred orientation. For flat specimens, back pressing and side drifting into the sample holder can be effective. These methods tend to produce much less preferred orientation than front-mounted samples, but tend not to be very effective for chronic preferred orientation such as that exhibited by phases like clays, feldspars and chlorite. Reducing the size of the crystallites improves the probability of achieving random alignment of the crystallites in the sample holder. Gradually milling a sample and monitoring the preferred-orientation coefficients as a function of grinding time may again help to find the correct, or at least reproducible, grinding conditions (Fig. 3.9.18[link]).

[Figure 3.9.18]

Figure 3.9.18 | top | pdf |

Increase of the March–Dollase (Dollase, 1986) parameter and related decrease of the degree of preferred orientation with grinding time for the two amphibole species actinolite (filled diamonds) and grunerite (open squares) in an iron ore. Data courtesy ThyssenKrupp – Resource Technologies (Knorr & Bornefeld, 2013[link]).

A major advantage of whole-pattern-based QPA over single-peak methods is that all classes of reflections are considered in the calculation. In this sense, the method is less prone to preferred orientation of a particular class of peaks. Furthermore, orientation effects may be corrected by applying March–Dollase (Dollase, 1986[link]) or spherical-harmonics (Ahtee et al., 1989[link]) corrections. A properly applied correction may be of high importance for QPA in cases where a phase is present at low concentration and only a few peaks can clearly be identified in the pattern. If those peak(s) are affected by preferred orientation, the March–Dollase coefficient correlates strongly with scale factors and leads to biased QPA results. Examples of this effect occur with layered materials that have sheet-like morphology perpendicular to the c axis, including mica and clay minerals, which typically show stronger than expected intensity for the 00l reflections.

The crucial factor seems to be to what extent the orientation parameters correlate with the Rietveld scale factor. An example where the correlation is only minor is sample 2 from the IUCr CPD round robin on QPA (Scarlett et al., 2002[link]). In that example, brucite [Mg(OH)2] shows strong preferred orientation along the 00l direction. This may be corrected by the March–Dollase model, which returns a refined value of 0.66. However, the introduction of this preferred-orientation correction only changes the brucite concentration from 35 to 36 wt% (weighed = 36.36 wt%); this is surprising because the orientation is strong and the weighted residual Rwp changes from 30 to 15%. Close examination of the correlations reveals a strong correlation between the brucite scale factor and preferred-orientation factor. However, the correlation of the brucite preferred-orientation parameter to the other scale factors (zincite, corundum and fluorite) is close to zero; this explains why in this example the QPA is not highly dependent on preferred orientation. In cases of strong correlation between the orientation parameter of one phase and the scale factors of other phases, preferred orientation should probably not be refined, or at least it should be verified carefully. It is worth noting that, in all Rietveld-based analyses, users should examine the correlation matrix as a matter of general practice to establish which parameters might be affecting parameters of interest.

It should be noted that sample rotation around the scattering vector (typically employed in flat-plate Bragg–Brentano geometry) during the scan does not reduce preferred orientation, since there is no change between the preferred-orientation direction and the diffraction vector. Using capillaries in transmission geometry assists in the reduction of preferred orientation, but the time-consuming nature of packing capillaries makes this technique infeasible in industrial applications where diffraction-based QPA is used for routine quality control.


Ahtee, M., Nurmela, M., Suortti, P. & Järvinen, M. (1989). Correction for preferred orientation in Rietveld refinement. J. Appl. Cryst. 22, 261–268.Google Scholar
Dollase, W. A. (1986). Correction of intensities for preferred orientation in powder diffractometry: application of the March model. J. Appl. Cryst. 19, 267–272.Google Scholar
Scarlett, N. V. Y., Madsen, I. C., Cranswick, L. M. D., Lwin, T., Groleau, E., Stephenson, G., Aylmore, M. & Agron-Olshina, N. (2002). Outcomes of the International Union of Crystallography Commission on Powder Diffraction Round Robin on Quantitative Phase Analysis: samples 2, 3, 4, synthetic bauxite, natural granodiorite and pharmaceuticals. J. Appl. Cryst. 35, 383–400.Google Scholar

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