From the earliest days of extractive metallurgy, materials scientists and geoscientists have shared common ground. Experimental approaches, such as phase equilibrium and structural studies, are often similar, as are the questions asked in attempts to connect microscopic fundamentals to technologically desired or naturally observed bulk properties. The actual materials studied by both groups are often similar or even identical, such as silicate ceramics and glasses, magnetic oxides, and crystals based on the perovskite structure.
Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) was applied to solid-state physics shortly after the technique was invented in 1946. Even at the start, many of the samples placed in magnets in physics laboratories were large single crystals of naturally occurring minerals such as gypsum (CaSO4 · 2H2O) and fluorite (CaF2), perhaps borrowed from mineralogist colleagues. In the last 10 years, however, applications to both the earth and materials science have rapidly expanded because of improvements in both technological capabilities and basic theory. Only work on inorganic materials will be discussed here, although 13C NMR studies have proved very useful in characterizing the complex, often inseparable mixtures of large organic molecules found in soils, kerogen, and coal. I will not attempt to thoroughly review the broad and fast growing literature in inorganic applications. Instead, I have chosen examples, primarily from our recent studies, to illustrate the scope of what is and will become possible.
Several recent books clearly introduced the basic concepts of solid-state NMR, and applications to crystalline and glassy silicates as well as NMR at high temperature have been reviewed recently.