Geology is all about putting together the puzzle without the picture on the box. We’re often trying to work out how rock was created in the first place, then trying to untangle the timeline of deformation after it was created. When it comes to sedimentary rocks we need to know where the source material came from. Sometimes it is as obvious as a mountain range nearby – but those are not the interesting problems! What do you do when you need to trace the provenance of grains in a sedimentary formation? You use your eyes along with some sophisticated spectroscopy to figure out just what the grains are made of!
Petrographic microscopes give geologists several ways to optically determine the composition of grains on the slide. These can include cross polarized light analysis and the generation of optical interference figures. Image: Open Geology
Raman spectrometers can determine the composition of samples by exciting the sample with a laser. They are great for materials that can be tricky or impossible to identify optically. Image: S&N Labs
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