Student Research Projects

An investigation of the composition of glaze and ceramic pieces from Nicaragua, Part I

Student Areli Ibarra ‘15 (Chemistry)
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Chemistry
Course Chemistry 480: Instrumental Methods of Analysis


Cultural techniques in the making of glazed ceramics in Nicaragua have evolved from traditional methods using natural minerals for pigmentation to modern methods utilizing chemical oxides. The purpose of this research was to investigate and identify compositional variation between the traditional and modern ceramic pieces through scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), which provides both qualitative and quantitative analysis of the ceramic pieces. Modern samples were collected from two sites, Masaya and San Juan de Oriente, although samples utilizing traditional techniques could only be acquired from San Juan.
Crystal structures in the ceramic glaze were imaged by back-scatter electron scans using the SEM, while EDS revealed concentrations (percent composition) of the major elemental components of the glaze. Preliminary analysis of the samples has revealed a significant difference in both the crystal structures present and the elemental composition between the traditional and modern pieces.