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Use of a Virtual Multifunctional X-Ray Diffractometer for Teaching Science and Engineering Courses

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2014 ASEE International Forum


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 14, 2014

Start Date

June 14, 2014

End Date

June 14, 2014

Conference Session

Track 1 - Session 2

Tagged Topic

Curriculum and Lab Development

Page Count


Page Numbers

20.39.1 - 20.39.9



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Paper Authors


Yakov E. Cherner ATEL, LLC

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Dr. Yakov E. Cherner, a Founder and President of ATEL, LLC, taught science, engineering and technology disciplines to high school, college and university students. He has extensive experience in writing curricula and developing educational software and efficient instructional strategies. Dr. Cherner introduced an innovative concept of multi-layered simulation-based conceptual teaching of science and technology. He also proposed and implemented the pioneering concept of integrated customizable online equipment and adjustable virtual laboratories. To facilitate these methodologies for academic education, corporate and military training, his company developed new ground-breaking e-learning solutions, as well as relevant assessment and authoring tools. Dr. Cherner holds an MS in Experimental Physics, and Ph.D. in Physics and Materials Science. He published over 100 papers in national and international journals and made dozens presentations at various national and international conferences and workshops. Dr. Cherner has served as a Principal Investigator for several government-funded educational projects.

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Maija M Kukla University of Maryland, College Park


Linn W Hobbs OBE Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Prof. Hobbs was educated at Northwestern University (BS summa cum laude, 1966) and at Oxford University (D.Phil. 1972, as a Marshall Scholar), where he afterwards held an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship and was subsequently elected a Research Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford. He has held professorial appointments at MIT for the last 33 years and was the inaugural holder of the John F. Elliot Chair in Materials (1992-99) there. He has served as president of the Microscopy Society of America (1987), director of the Materials Research Society (1983-86), and director of the American Ceramic Society (2003-06). At MIT, he served as Associate Chair of the MIT Faculty, chaired the faculty committees on Undergraduate Education, Curricula, Independent Activities Period, and Nominations. He also has served as longtime president of the MIT Chapter of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society. He received MIT’s Arthur C. Smith (a much-cherished Dean for Undergraduate Education) ward for notable contributions to the Undergraduate Program. Outside the Institute, he chaired New England regional selection committees for the British Marshall Scholarships for thirteen years, the Truman Scholarships for the last six, served two years on the U.S. selection committee for Gates Cambridge Scholars, and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Council of International Exchange of Scholars (CIES-Fulbright Programs) and the Association of Marshall Scholars. He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in 2001.

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Sergey V Vasilev Yaroslavl State University

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Ivan Fedorov

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Alexander S. Sigov

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Use of a Virtual Multifunctional X-Ray Diffractometer for Teaching Science and Engineering CoursesContemporary research equipment is not only extremely complex and very expensive, it istypically fully computerized. Most procedures such as calibration, data collection, data handlingand interpretation are performed automatically. While this provides enormous benefits forresearchers, it also creates a number of substantial educational drawbacks and limitations. Thestudent laboratory task is often reduced to installing a sample and pushing the Start button. Allsteps between this and getting the final results on the computer are executed without studentparticipation.Virtual equipment is capable of overcoming these problems and providing the student with anopportunity to practice concepts, tasks, and equipment operations in a manner that can’t beachieved on actual equipment. Simulation-based virtual equipment does not utilize expansivecapital equipment during the learning process, it does not require providing and observingrigorous safety precautions, and it does not cost anything to maintenance and repair.The paper will present examples and discuss the use of the virtual X-Ray diffractometer (v-Diffractometer) for teaching several different courses at five universities including the Universityof Maryland, University of South Florida, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yaroslavl StateUniversity (Russia), and Moscow State Technical University of Radio-Engineering, Electronics,and Automation (Russia).The v-Diffractometer does not reproduce any vendor specific instruments, but it realisticallyimitates all major parts and devices of a fully functional XRD powder diffractometer.  This virtual equipment has been used to help undergraduate students enrolled in physics,chemistry, materials science and pharmacy classes learn fundamental principles underlying theanalytical x-ray diffraction methods and become familiar with the design and operation of the X-ray equipment in visual and interactive ways. An interactive online lesson, as well as prerecordedvideo lectures, animations, quizzes and other learning resources, can be called up within virtualexperiments to provide “just-in-time” learning opportunities that address the educational needs ofthe student. Students employed the v-Diffractometer to perform such online assignments asIndexing Diffraction Data, Crystal Lattice Type and Size Determination, and some others.The virtual diffractometer has also been used for preparing undergraduate and graduate studentsto perform the research studies. In this context, the paper will illustrate the application of thevirtual diffractometer by such examples as: X-Ray diffraction study of phase transitions inferroelectric ceramics and nanoscale thin films, qualitative phase analysis of two-phase and three-phase compounds and nanostructured materials, study of phase composition of human kidneystones using powder diffraction data standards.

Cherner, Y. E., & Kukla, M. M., & Hobbs, L. W., & Vasilev, S. V., & Fedorov, I., & Sigov, A. S. (2014, June), Use of a Virtual Multifunctional X-Ray Diffractometer for Teaching Science and Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2014 ASEE International Forum, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--17202

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