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Good knowledge of the atomic-scale structure is a prerequisite to understanding and exploiting minerals. When minerals are ordinary single crystals or powders, the structure is routinely obtained by traditional Bragg X-ray diffraction. Traditional X-ray diffraction is difficult to apply to minerals that are substantially disordered at the atomic scale, however, because the diffraction patterns of such minerals show a small number of Bragg-like peaks, if any, and a pronounced diffuse component. A nontraditional approach based on high-energy X-ray diffraction coupled to atomic pair distribution function data analysis may be used instead. The essentials of this approach are described here and its great potential demonstrated with examples from recent studies. The purpose is to encourage the mineralogical community go beyond traditional X-ray diffraction when the atomic-scale structural features of substantially disordered minerals are to be determined in detail.

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