In a nutshell – material analysis involves the process of investigating the structural and chemical make up of a particular material in order to better understand it’s derived properties.
The range of properties that can be investigated include color, optical, wettability, roughness, solderability, catalytic effect, etc.
Material analysis is important since it assists us to understand and be able to quantify whether a certain material or, perhaps, treatment is suitable for use with a particular application. Testing in this way can help companies to focus on the appropriate choices targeted to the intended end use of a product or procedure.
The process basically involves:
- Setting out a definition of the question – identifying exactly what is involved.
- Collection and collating data on the subject
- Sorting and cleaning the data (taking out anything that is not relevant)
- Analysis of the subject involving use of specialist equipment
- Producing and sharing results
- Assisting in developing solutions to issues identified when analysing the material
These include: light microscopy, dispersive energy X-ray analysis, low-energy scattering of ions, photoelectron spectroscopy, interferometry, infrared spectroscopy, secondary ion mass spectroscopy, and scanning electron microscopy.
A variety of different machines are used, depending on what is required to be analysed. Typically, material analysis experts would use: thermal analysers, calorimeters, X-ray diffractometers, high pressure manometers, atomic microscopes, electro-chemical microscopes, X-ray film processors, etc.
The type of equipment used, depends, of course, on what is being analysed. When seeking to employ the services of a material analysist, you must ensure that you identify one that has both the appropriate area of expertise and relevant equipment to do the work.
Uses For the Technology
Material analysis is widely used across many industries in order to develop, test and monitor products. Here are a few examples:
- Chemicals Industry. Products of the chemical industry are everywhere in our day-to-day life, from our food packaging to the dye made to color clothes! In the wider world – pesticides, industrial packaging, additives for various products, etc.
- Petrochemicals. Determining the structure of and monitoring liquids, testing quality assurance, identifying safety issues, are all aspects which need to be addressed using material analysis techniques.
- Food Manufacturers. Ever increasing challenges regarding food packaging, safety regulations and the constant pressure to produce efficiency savings make material analysis vital in this industry.
- Construction and Manufacturing. Maintaining the quality of materials and pressures to be more efficient, against a background of increases in regulations, ensure that material analysis has an important part to play.
- Renewable Energy. Investigations into material use in battery technology is important in this area, as is efficiency savings in areas such as biological waste disposal.
- Nanotechnology. Particle analysis, surface imaging and determination of molecular structure are important areas in which material analysis is used. Small specialist equipment is the obvious requirement for material analysis of nanotechnology.
Just looking at the range of uses for material analysis is an eye opener to this vitally important industry.