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Three-dimensional X-ray diffraction microscopy is a fast and nondestructive structural characterization technique aimed at studies of the individual crystalline elements (grains or subgrains) within millimetre-sized polycrystalline specimens. It is based on two principles: the use of highly penetrating hard X-rays from a synchrotron source and the application of `tomographic' reconstruction algorithms for the analysis of the diffraction data. In favourable cases, the position, morphology, phase and crystallographic orientation can be derived for up to 1000 elements simultaneously. For each grain its average strain tensor may also be derived, from which the type II stresses can be inferred. Furthermore, the dynamics of the individual elements can be monitored during typical processes such as deformation or annealing. A review of the field is provided, with a viewpoint from materials science.

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