Book review: X-Ray Scattering of Soft Matter by Norbert Stribeck

I’ve borrowed a copy of the book “X-Ray Scattering of Soft Matter” by Norbert Stribeck (published by Springer) from one of my supervisors, and I’ve taken some time to browse through it. I must admit, I haven’t read it cover-to-cover, but have tried to use it as a reference book, just like ye olde “Small Angle X-Ray Scattering” from Glatter and Kratky (Online available as PDF here: Small Angle X-ray Scattering).   

The author is well-known in the field of fibre scattering, having studied under prof Ruland. This book, then, contains may references and useful information for samples with fibre symmetry. I’ve used this book in that sense as a sort of review article, since it necessarily also references to quite a few articles concerning my particular topic. In that sense, this book provides a good set of pointers for researchers working on fibres.  

The  book, in my opinion, has a scope that is a little too broad. To give you an impression: there are chapters on polymer physics, X-Ray basics, experimental systems, proposal writing guides, tips and hints for getting most out of beamtime, data analysis, orientation effects and data fitting techniques. This can be a good thing, but it seems that the broadness has affected the depth of the material included, that is to say, I think too little is said on each topic. One prime example of the brevity is the section on when the Guinier approximation can be used for extrapolation of the scattering pattern to q=0. The section 8.1.2 (which discusses this) can be quoted in its entirity: 

“Without any interpretation, Guinier’s law can be used to extrapolate small-angle data towards zero scattering angle, if the measured data cover a part of the Guinier region, i.e. where Eq (8.1) or Eq (8.2) is valid.”

Equation 8.1 and 8.2 are different forms of the Guinier approximation. So essentially, this section states that the Guinier approximation can be used if it is valid, which doesn’t answer my questions on the application of the Guinier method for systems where it clearly cannot be valid (a dense system of polydisperse, anisotropic, particles with a high aspect ratio).   

That said, the tips and hints given in this book stem from the many years of experience that Stribeck has behind his belt. This makes the book a worthwile read (esp. regarding the sections on beamtime hints and tips, for example). In other areas, the book provides a good overview and concatenation of the (sometimes sketchy) articles of the past. One item to which this applies is the “Ruland Streak Method” which nicely exposes the details in an easily understood manner. 

One minor gripe that I think deserves some attention, nonetheless, is the relatively poor quality of some of the images. Whilst much attention has been given to the text, equations and diagrams, there are examples of “home-made” pictures in the book (e.g. Fig 10.1 and 9.1) which simply do not belong in a high-quality book like this and degrade its overall appearance. Some figures (e.g. Fig 9.9) also lack some explanatory qualities, and are difficult to understand. 

All in all, the book is a good reference, but contains some rough edges and is certainly not the final word on each topic in the book. I’d like to see a next edition which elaborates a little more on each topic, with slightly more attention to the figures and pictures. Some chapters go too deep too fast, whilst others merely graze the surface of each topic without going deep enough. Still, it’s a good read and contains many worthwile sections, hints tips and views. I’d recommend it to graduate students and others who are starting in the field of fibre scattering, and who are planning to do some beamline experiments.  

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