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The solid Earth consists for the most part of minerals and rocks, but fluids, glasses, melts and other non-crystalline substances are also found and they play an important role in a number of geochemical and geophysical processes. The mineral sciences and the field of geochemistry are greatly concerned with investigating the nature of all geomaterials. Indeed, one wants to describe and understand their fundamental chemical and physical properties and also their behaviour under different physical conditions. In many cases a level of scientific understanding of a material is best achieved when the atomistic-scale properties and interactions can be described or characterised. This is, for example, the case for investigating the adsorption behaviour of molecules or atoms on the surfaces of minerals or in studying the physical nature of viscosity of a silicate melt. Ultimately, it is the atomistic-scale properties that control the bulk macroscopic properties of a material and, thus, they have to be characterised and understood. One is interested in both the static and dynamic behaviour of atoms and molecules and their energetic properties and interactions with one another.

This is where spectroscopy1 enters the picture, because spectroscopic measurements can provide local or atomistic-level information on a variety of different materials, whether they are gas, liquid or solid phase.

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