Cathodoluminescence (CL) microscopy reveals the real structure of solids based on a crystal’s intrinsic properties and trace-element chemistry. Although CL is useful for the identification of minerals (and their distribution), researchers more frequently employ this technique to reveal the typomorphic properties and features of minerals that characterize the conditions of formation and alteration to reconstruct geological processes.

The table below shows a diverse range of minerals that may be examined using CL. Note that iron minerals and iron-rich phases are generally non-luminescent.

Class Examples
Elements Diamond
Sulfides Sphalerite
Oxides Corundum, cassiterite, periclase
Halides Fluorite, halite
Sulfates Anhydrite, alunite
Phosphates Apatite
Carbonates  Calcite, aragonite, dolomite, magnesite
Silicates Feldspar, quartz, zircon, kaolinite

A wide range of CL imaging and analysis techniques are used in geoscience applications.

Experimental brief

Streamlined microanalysis in the SEM
High-speed, hyperspectral (spectrum) imaging for all with the Monarc detector


Cathodoluminescence Explained. Episode 3: Analysis Modes for Geoscience Applications