Powder diffraction is the principal technique for determining the structure of materials that do not necessarily form large ordered crystals. It is therefore the technique of choice for the analysis of many naturally occurring real-world materials such as minerals and artefacts, as well as novel man-made materials where synthesis is under-developed, or highly strained materials subject to twinning, or indeed again where they do not naturally form lsingle crystals.
The technique has the advantage of a relatively simple scattering geometry but has been much enhanced by the development of intense synchrotron sources as well as advances in data analysis, using modelling, direct methods and global optimisation methods.
High intensity X-ray sources, such as the I11 undulator, coupled to increases in detector speeds at high resolution makes powder diffraction the technique of choice for in situ and in operando studies of materials under non-ambient conditions such as high/low temperatures or gas loading.
In recent years powder diffraction has provided crucial structural information for many strategically important materials including: