Raman spectroscopy is growing in popularity as a tool for mineral identification due to its heightened sensitivity to chemical structures and minimal sample preparation. In this interview, we sat down with Dr. Peter Muller to get an inside look at his experience working with B&W Tek’s i-Raman® Plus system paired with the BWSpec® intuitive software.
Peter Muller is a retired professor, structural geologist and consultant based in Philadelphia where he creates and studies thin sections in order to compare relationships in micro textures.
How long have you been in the industry? What is your experience with working in mineral identification?
Before I was an independent consultant, I taught geology at State University of New York for 27 years. I’m a structural geologist and I study how the earth deforms and the features that have formed as a result of deformation. I have had several research projects over the years and one of the tasks that [I] do on a daily basis is sample rocks and looks at their micro textures to identify minerals.
What has been your experience with working with the portable Raman system?
I’ve been excited that I am able to confirm my optical identification with Raman and in some cases I found that I can identify minerals with the micro Raman system that I couldn’t with just the optical properties of the microscope. That’s when I got very excited about it. Combine all of that with the modest initial costs, virtually no maintenance and [the fact that it] doesn’t need a specialized operator and it seems like a lot of geology departments would be interested in this kind of system.
What are some of the strengths of using Raman spectroscopy in the mineral identification process?
It is widely known and used extensively by people that just study minerals and want to know the structure of minerals, the chemistry of minerals and Raman is a very good technique for that.
As a former professor, what is your opinion on using portable Raman spectroscopy in educational institutions?
I think that as a teaching tool, it’s neat because I would trust a student using this whereas trusting a student to run an electron microprobe or an S.E.M. is a whole different story…almost every student that gets a degree in geology takes a course in mineralogy where they look at rocks on thin sections through a polarizing compound microscope and they learn the optical characteristics that are used to identify minerals. For many minerals, optical characteristics are fine but if you want to look at details of chemical variations or minerals that are too fine grained then you need some other technique and [you] can use Raman.