Thursday, 14 July 2011

Automated Mineralogy publication trends

Peer-reviewed journal and conference papers on automated mineralogy applications as of mid-2011

There are now >100 papers on automated mineralogy which I have compiled using the open source reference management software Zotero. The library includes book chapters, journal papers, peer-reviewed conference papers, public reports, research thesis, as well as important press releases on automated SEM-based solutions for compositional mapping of minerals and rocks. The bibliographic information is openly accessible via the Internet as a group library with closed membership.

In the process of compiling the literature and organizing the papers by publication type, field of application, as well as analytical technology solution, some interesting trends emerged. The most significant one is a marked increase in automated mineralogy publications over the past couple of years. This year alone, papers published in 2011 or in press account for nearly one third of all automated mineralogy publications.
The two industry-standard automated SEM-EDS solutions QEMSCAN® (formerly QEM*SEM) and the Mineral Liberation Analyzer (MLA) make up the large majority (>90%) of the published literature. This literature is dominated by papers applying QEMSCAN® in areas ranging from oil and gas, coal and flyash, ore characterization, mineral processing optimisation, environmental mineralogy, archaeology and forensics. Papers based on the MLA solution are more focused on the optimization of mineral processing and bright phase mineral detection.

Considering the dominant position of QEMSCAN® in the scientific literature (~80%), it is an interesting exercise to compare the historical stages of QEMSCAN® development with the scientific output. As QEM*SEM (Quantitative Evaluation of Minerals by Scanning Electron Microscopy) was first developed at CSIRO Australia, a limited number of authors lead by the developers such as Alan Reid, Paul Gottlieb, David Sutherland and Alan Butcher laid out the methodological groundwork for early applications. In 2003, when QEM*SEM was turned into a commercial solution by Intellection, publication output picked up by early adopters such as Norman Lotter and Duncan Pirrie, but the overall volume remained low. Scientific writing gathers momentum in 2006, coinciding with the first international meeting to focus on automated mineralogy technologies held in Brisbane: the Automated Mineralogy ’06 conference which was co-organized by MEI and Intellection. The most significant increase in scientific productivity aligns with the acquisition of QEMSCAN and MLA technologies by FEI, a leading developer and provider of scanning electron microscope and focused ion beam solutions.

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