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Academic year
Didactic period
Secondo Semestre

Training objectives

The course treats in detail the theoretical and applied aspects of the main methods that can be used for the chemical analyses of natural rocks, sediments, and water, as well as industrial and building materials. The course gives the necessary theoretical-practical bases for the choice of the most appropriate analytical methods in relation to the scope of the analyses and the material investigated. The course also gives the fundamental bases for a correct interpretation of the analytical results. This course is addressed to the students of all the different curricula of the Master Course in Geological Sciences, Geo-Resources and Territory.


Chemistry of the main rock-forming elements
Rock-forming minerals

Course programme

I part) (about 10 hours) DATA TREATMENT AND CRITICAL EVALUATION OF THE DIFFIRENT ANALYTICAL METHOD: Introduction to the chemical analyses in Earth Sciences and different analytical methods. Introduction to the instrumental chemical analyses: sensibility, detection limits, quantification limits, precision, and accuracy. Ways of reporting analyses. Introduction to the error theory: true value, rough error, systematically and random errors. Theory of propagation of errors. International reference standards.

II part) (about 20 hours during which 10 in the laboratory) SAMPLING PROCEDURES AND PRELIMINARY TREATMENT OF SAMPLE: Sampling of the geo-materials. Preliminary treating of samples: cutting, grinding, powdering, sieving. Methods of mineral separation. Preparation of pressed powder pellets and fused beads for XRF analyses. Sample digestion. Preconcentration procedures.

III part) (about 18 hours) ANALYTICAL TECHNIQUES: Examples of volumetric analyses (determination of Fe2+ concentration with titration and determination of CO2 with calcimetry) gravimetric analysis (volatile elements analyses). Introduction to the absorption spectrophotometer analyses: Lambert-Beer Law. Atomic Emission and Absorption (AA): Instrumental geometry and interferences. Fluorescence X-ray spectrometry (XRF): nature, origin, and production of the X-rays; X-ray absorption and detection. Wavelength dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (WDS) and Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS). Introduction to analysis by total reflection X-ray fluorescence (TXRF). Matrix effects and main matrix correction methods. Introduction to Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA). Introduction to the inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS): formation of plasma. Working conditions of the ICP-MS. Qualitative, semi-quantitative and quantitative analyses with external calibration and isotopic dilution. Triple quadrupole instruments.

Introduction to chromatography.

Examples of in-situ chemical analyses: the electron microprobe analysis (EPMA) for the determination of major elements; the laser microprobe-coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) for the determination of trace elements.

Didactic methods

theoretical (about 30 hours in class and 10 in laboratory) and practical lessons

Learning assessment procedures

The exam (oral) is aimed to verify the achievement of the educational objectives set.
In each exam, questions will cover at least one of the topics for each of the three parts of the Course:
-data treatment and critical evaluation of the different analytical methods,
-sampling procedures and preliminary treatment of samples,
-instrumental analytical techniques.

Reference texts

- Duplicate lectures notes provided by the teacher

- “Modern analytical geochemistry" (Robin Gill; Longman Singapore Publishers, Singapore).

For specific topics eventually see:

"Laboratory Handbook of Petrographic Techniques" (Charles S. Hutchison. John Wiley & Sons, New York).

“Introduzione alla spettrometria dei raggi X di fluorescenza”(Giuseppe Bonissoni; ed. ETAS, Milano)

“Handbook of Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry” (K.E. Jarvis, A.L. Gray, R.S. Houk; Blackie & Son Ltd, Glasgow and London)