With the increasing sophistication of materials and manufacturing processes comes a greater need to anticipate and mitigate inherent risks. These risks include product defects, failure, or contamination, as well as the potential creation of harmful emissions or by-products that could threaten workers or surrounding communities. One of the ways Maxxam Analytics helps our clients address such challenges is through Materials Characterization.
Materials Characterization is a branch of materials science that incorporates elements of physics, chemistry, engineering, and other disciplines to examine the structure and properties of materials, from the atomic level up to the coarse grain structural level. Specifically, at Maxxam, we characterize particles, residues and surfaces.
Maxxam’s Materials characterization Services:
- Optical or Light Microscope: The optical microscope is the oldest form of microscope, with precursors of the present form in use as early as the 17th The optical microscope uses a beam of light and a system of lenses to produce and magnify an image. Optical properties of various materials can be identified. The many applications of optical microscopes include medical diagnosis, mineralogy, and nanotechnology.
- Transmission Electron Microscope or TEM: The transmission electron microscope, which was developed in the early part of the 20th century, forms an image from the interaction between electrons and samples as an electron beam is transmitted through a thin or sectioned sample. The resolution of a TEM is thousands of times higher than an optical microscope and can provide information on the topography, morphology, elemental composition and crystallinity of a sample.
- Scanning Electron Microscope or SEM: The scanning electron microscope was developed in the early part of the 20th century and first marketed in the 1960s. The scanning electron microscope forms a detailed image of the surface of a particle or fiber. The image is formed from secondary electrons that are ejected or bounced off a sample when an electron beam is scanned across the sample. The SEM is an excellent tool for verifying elemental composition, proximity of similar materials and particle size distributions in the “what is it” type of projects.
Unique Solutions to Challenging Problems
The Maxxam microscopy group takes pride in providing unique solutions to challenging problems through materials characterization. Our electron microscopes allow us to determine the structure of a sample down to its elemental composition and detect stress or internal fractures. We can determine sample composition, fiber and particle size, material origin, foreign substances, physical defects, and various other properties. We are experts at analyzing a wide range of samples, including:
- Fibers and Particulate
- Stack Emissions
- Metals and Alloys
- Water and Sludge
- Corroded Surfaces
- Building Materials
- Cast Metals and Ceramics
- Composites and Polymers
- Product Failure Samples
Why Choose Maxxam?
Our success is your success. We thrive on providing the industry’s best solutions to your challenges. We have helped our clients by:
- Identifying foreign minerals in raw materials to certify purity of products
- Photographing surfaces of painted products to determine the source of defects
- Analyzing corroded surfaces and buildup on pipes to find the source of corrosion
- Identifying flaky, particulate material clogging air filters
- Differentiating regulated and unregulated fibers in air samples for OSHA compliance
- Assessing new fiber products to ensure compatibility with manufacturer goals
- Analyzing recrystallization residues affecting worker exposure
- Distinguishing carbon black from black carbon and soot
Carbon Black & Soot: What’s the Difference?
Carbon black is manufactured under controlled conditions for commercial use, primarily in the rubber, painting, and printing industries. Greater than 97% of carbon black consists of elemental carbon arranged as aciniform particulate. Aciniform morphology (grape-like clusters of carbon black) can be visualized by polarized light microscopy (PLM) for visual estimation. However, confirmation of the carbon black is required at much higher magnifications using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS). Individual particles of carbon black have smooth edges at high magnifications whereas soot has serrated or irregular edges. Additionally, the types of organic compounds (including PAHs) are not extractable in biological fluids and are not as biologically potent as those present in soot. Confirming the elemental composition of carbon black (typically carbon and minor sulfur) by energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) supports the morphological identification of the aciniform particles).
Soot is the unwanted by-product of combustion of carbon-based materials for the generation of energy or heat, or for waste disposal. Depending upon the type of soot, the relative amount and type of carbon and particulate characteristics can vary considerably. Less than 60% of the total soot particulate mass is carbon. Soot has much greater percentages of ash and solvent-extractable organic compounds.
Sampling for particulate on surfaces can be performed using either sterile cotton balls or wipes. Cotton balls and wipes are used to wipe a predetermined area and then are placed into a sealable plastic bag. Whereas, mixed cellulose ester (MCE) filters with a 0.45 micron pore size in 25-mm cassettes are used for air sampling.