Detailed knowledge of the atomic-scale structure is needed to understand and predict properties of materials. For ordinary crystals, this information is obtained by traditional (Bragg) X-ray diffraction. It is difficult to use this approach on materials structured at the nanoscale because their diffraction patterns show few, if any, Bragg peaks, and have a pronounced diffuse component. A non traditional approach based on high-energy X-ray diffraction and atomic pair distribution function data analysis may be used instead. This article describes the essentials of this approach and its great potential. The purpose is to encourage the nanoscience community go beyond traditional X-ray diffraction.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(08)70236-0