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

Experimental briefs and application notes

Major, minor, and trace element distributions in a meteorite revealed by energy dispersive spectroscopy and cathodoluminescence spectroscopy Streamlined microanalysis in the SEM High-speed, hyperspectral (spectrum) imaging for all with the Monarc detector
Observation of crystal structure orientation by cathodoluminescence (CL) polarization-filtered spectrum imaging Cathodoluminescence techniques for the geosciences  


Cathodoluminescence Explained. Episode 3: Analysis Modes for Geoscience Applications