Using the Electron Mircoprobe

Posted March 26th, 2009 by admin

Today I went into the lab once more and place the lunar sample into the machine – this time instead of blasting it with x-rays to get element maps I was picking out specific points to hit with an electron beam and see what they are made off.

First off we picked a selection of elements that I wanted to get proportions of and then I picked the points I wanted to know about specifically. From the element maps and the back scatter image I had taken previously I knew that I apparently had several minerals (I had trudged through four large tomes of mineralogy and lunar/planetary stuff to find out what sort of things I might have lurking in the sample. I had then taken the element maps and compared them – drawn faint sketches of them and then working out what elements I had in conjection where drew on mineral areas with coloured pens onto a printout of the backscatter image. (He told me this was actually an x-ray map just not element specific so I need to check whats what with him I think).

They seemed quiet impressed that I had done this but it seemed like the only way to make things clear to me personally. I was becoming frustrated that I couldn’t work out the actual proportions and therefore the exact minerals from the elelment maps and that I could only narrow things down. Fortunatly this is what today was actually about so I worked out how many samples I wanted and were to take the measurements – unfortunatly becuase there is a bad polish on the sample I had to be careful and was highly restricted in where I could take measurements.

But I selected 101 points – each point was going to take about 9 minutes to analyse but I specifically went in early to get it all going and as it turned out had plenty of time.

I had also narrowed down the minerals really far more accuratly that I thought I had and I had worked out stuff about my ‘dirty’ quartz that does seem to be correct which is very cool and makes me feel like I might just have a chance of doing this.

The only thing is I found myself baulkin at the interface of data and computers – there are situations that I just see no reason not to have a computer automate and I think they should be relatively easy to implement and yet there is nothing! This keeps happening every where I turn in geology and earth sciences there is just huge gaps that computers could feel reducing monkey work and increasing the amount of research that can be analysis in depth!

The only scary thing about todays stuff was that if I want to go out of the lab I have to remember to press a button that puts an alunium or copper block infront of my electron beam so that it doesn’t burn a whole in the sample – this made me quiet nervous!

This post originally appeared on mine and my husbands personal blog – with some non-astronomy irrelevant bits in.

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