University of Valladolid (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN22 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Pages: 2408-2414
ISBN: 978-84-09-42484-9
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2022.0621
Conference name: 14th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2022
Location: Palma, Spain
The recent advances in technological development promoted the exponential growth of the area of materials science. Nowadays, there is an increasing demand in the fabrication of functional materials with a broad field of application, from biomedical to energy storage. From another perspective, these advances, particularly on characterization techniques, have also provided new approaches for improving the understanding of the history of former civilizations through archaeometry studies. The extensive career options related to materials science, with great opportunities in both educational and industrial frameworks, make this discipline of great interest for the new scientific generations. The University of Valladolid (Spain) offers a course related to the structural characterization of materials in the Master’s degree of Physics. The main goal is acquainting students with the required concepts for the characterization of materials with a broad structural diversity and complexity.

X-ray Diffraction (XRD) is a powerful technique commonly used to obtain detailed information about the crystallographic structure of matter. Despite this, the study of this instrument in an academic framework presents great difficulties in comparison to other characterization techniques. The large dimensions of commercial research setups avoid its use in laboratory practices, being also limited their operation to skilled personnel. However, the importance of laboratory practices to consolidate the knowledge acquired previously in the theoretical subjects is well known. Moreover, relating the laboratory practices with actual research contents is a remarkable approach to improve the students’ engagement.

Herein, we present the design of a new experimentation practices program in which students will be able to implement X-ray diffraction measurements in the laboratory using a classical X-ray diffractometer designed for teaching in physics, the TEL-X-Ometer. Initially, the students are guided to put into practice the basic concepts of X-ray diffraction, as well as to explore the technical aspects of the instrument. This equipment allows the measuring of samples in diverse forms (e.g., powders, wires, and crystals), which expand the experimental possibilities. The present practices will go through basic concepts about crystallography, like calculating the interplanar distance or the lattice constant of some metallic samples. Besides, they will be focused on obtaining additional chemical information from the diffractograms that will help to acquire a more accurate characterization of the material. For example, the effect of changing certain fabrication parameters on the material or characterizing the nature of metallic dopants embedded in matrices. Furthermore, this practices program will introduce the study of advanced materials developed on current research projects, as well as of samples from the cultural and historical heritage, providing the students a unique opportunity to learn about the uses of X-ray diffraction on ongoing research projects.

Concluding, we consider that these practices will be essential for students to consolidate the main crystallography concepts, improve their learning process, and to introduce them to more complex structures and research-related contents.
Materials science, practical learning, training program.