By mapping the qualitative chemistry of a sample, the spatial chemical variability and associations can enable crucial textural and mineralogical features to be identified and interpreted, that may otherwise not be visible or readily distinguishable using other methods.
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During the mapping process the surface is scanned with a focused X-ray beam and the elemental composition and spatial distribution of major, minor and some trace element elements can be determined (elements from Na to U). Precise measurements can be made at a rate of millimetres per second, with a spot size down to 25 µm. However, mapping is not the only way to collect qualitative information from a sample. Line scans across the sample and individual points can also provide targeted chemical information about a sample and enable specific questions to be answered quickly and efficiently.