Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Mapping Apollo 17 lunar regolith

apollo 17 lunar regolith QEMSCAN mineral map

In 1972 Apollo 17 landed on the moon in the Taurus-Littrow Valley on the eastern rim of Mare Serenitatis. Astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt discovered and sampled unusually coloured soil in the form of glass spheres. These spheres occur in a range of colours, from orange to black and green, and in sizes from ten's to hundred's of micron.

Scientists hypothesize that the spheres are the result of fire fountain eruptions that occurred during the same time period as the bulk of mare basalt extrusion, and that they owe their unique colours to a combination of specific chemical compositions, quench crystallization, and devitrification processes.

Automated mineral analysis has allowed the quantification of mineral and glass components, as well as the textural attributes of glass spheres, on a particle-by-particle basis. Researchers can now directly compare samples collected at various locations and draw conclusions on the geological process responsible for the formation of these unique lunar environments.


QEMSCAN mineral map of pisoliths

QEMSCAN cross-sectional images of Pisoliths

The distinctive sub-rounded particles in this image are known as pisoliths, which form at the Earth’s surface as a result of weathering of a rock, typically basalt igneous rock. 
No two pisoliths are the same – although they generally have a nucleus and core which is then surrounded by several concentric layers.

Pisoliths can form a bauxite ore, the main source of aluminium.  
Extraction of aluminium from the ore involves a complex chemical digestion technique known as the Bayer Process. The efficiency of this process s is significantly reduced if impurities other than aluminium hydroxide (green) are present in the ore, such as quartz (pink), clays (brown) and iron oxides (orange) in the image.

FEI’s Automated Mineralogy solutions are helping mining companies better understanding ore variability in terms of mineralogy and textures. QEMSCAN mineral maps as the one above provided by courtesy of BHP Billiton lead to improved metallurgical processing.

Monday, 22 November 2010

original QEMSCAN hardware interface

Ten years later, The PC PCI-bus hardware interface for the first generation of QEMSCAN was built in 1996.

original QEM*SEM hardware interface

This week, we uncovered a real Automated Mineralogy memorabilia. A VAX Q-bus hardware interface for the original digital QEM*SEM serial # 2. It is a hand-made double-sided printed circuit board built in 1985.

Monday, 15 November 2010

QEMSCAN mineral map of kimberlite

Nothing but a beautiful picture on a Monday morning. This is one of my all time favourite QEMSCAN images: a kimberlite from South Africa donated to Intellection Pty. by De Beers in 2005. The kimberlite mineral map is emphasising olivine macrocrysts (in green) spectacularly altered to various generations of serpentine. The kimberlite matrix is made up of clay minerals and carbonates, presented in blue, purple and buff colours.

Monday, 8 November 2010

FEI Solutions for Natural Resources web launch

Today is a special day for Automated Mineralogy! FEI Australia is launching its first internet presence on Automated Mineralogy solutions for Natural Resources.

Natural Resources Applications are divided into Mining, Oil & Gas, Geosciences and Forensics. Each section serves as an introduction to the field of application and features great images from their QEMSCAN and MLA solutions. Make sure to check out the movie as well!

Hidden away but extremely useful is the Glossary of Natural Resources Terms. Among some 50 related terms, it defines Automated Mineralogy as "A generic term describing a range of analytical solutions, areas of commercial enterprise, and a growing field of scientific research and engineering applications involving largely automated and quantitative analysis of minerals, rocks and man-made materials". Here you go!

A good day indeed to start this blog on Automated Mineralogy, highlighting new applications, reviewing journal papers, pointing out conference presentations and showing off some interesting images. Enjoy!