Standard Article

Mössbauer Spectrometry

Resonance Methods

  1. Brent Fultz

Published Online: 18 MAY 2012

DOI: 10.1002/0471266965.com069.pub2

Characterization of Materials

Characterization of Materials

How to Cite

Fultz, B. 2012. Mössbauer Spectrometry. Characterization of Materials. 1–21.

Author Information

  1. California Institute of Technology, Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science, Pasadena, CA, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 18 MAY 2012


Mössbauer spectrometry provides unique measurements of electronic, magnetic, and structural properties within materials. A Mössbauer spectrum is an intensity of γ-ray absorption versus energy for a specific resonant nucleus such as inline image or inline image. Mössbauer spectrometry looks at materials from the “inside out,” where “inside” refers to the resonant nucleus. For one nucleus to emit a γ ray and a second nucleus to absorb it with efficiency, both nuclei must be embedded in solids, a phenomenon known as the “Mössbauer effect.”

Mössbauer spectra give quantitative information on “hyperfine interactions,” which are small energies from the interaction between the nucleus and its neighboring electrons. The three important hyperfine interactions originate from the electron density at the nucleus (the isomer shift), the gradient of the electric field (the nuclear quadrupole splitting), and the unpaired electron density at the nucleus (the hyperfine magnetic field). Over the years, methods have been refined for using these three hyperfine interactions to determine valence and spin at the resonant atom. Even when the hyperfine interactions are not easily interpreted, they can often be used reliably as “fingerprints” to identify the different local chemical environments of the resonant atom, usually with a good estimate of their fractional abundances. Mössbauer spectrometry is useful for quantitative phase analyses or determinations of the concentrations of resonant element in different phases, even when the phases are nanostructured or amorphous.

Most Mössbauer spectra are acquired with simple laboratory equipment and a radioisotope source, but the recent development of synchrotron instrumentation now allows for measurements on small 10-μm samples, which may be exposed to extreme environments of pressure and temperature. Other capabilities include measurements of the vibrational spectra of resonant atoms, and coherent scattering and diffraction of nuclear radiation.

This article is not a review of the field, but an instructional reference that explains principles and practices, and gives the working materials scientist a basis for evaluating whether or not Mössbauer spectrometry may be useful for a research problem. A few representative materials studies are presented.


  • composition;
  • valence;
  • spin;
  • magnetism;
  • phase analysis