The reliable determination of bioapatite crystallinity is of great practical interest, as a proxy to the physico-chemical and microstructural properties, and ultimately, to the integrity of bone materials. Bioapatite crystallinity is used to diagnose pathologies in modern calcified tissues as well as to assess the preservation state of fossil bones. To date, infrared spectroscopy is one of the most applied techniques for bone characterisation and the derived infrared splitting factor (IRSF) has been widely used to practically assess bioapatite crystallinity. Here we thoroughly discuss and revise the use of the IRSF parameter and its meaning as a crystallinity indicator, based on extensive measurements of fresh and fossil bones, virtually covering the known range of crystallinity degree of bioapatite. A novel way to calculate and use the infrared peak width as a suitable measurement of true apatite crystallinity is proposed, and validated by combined measurement of the same samples through X-ray diffraction. The non-linear correlation between the infrared peak width and the derived ISRF is explained. As shown, the infrared peak width at 604 cm−1 can be effectively used to assess both the average crystallite size and structural carbonate content of bioapatite, thus establishing a universal calibration curve of practical use.
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