Fast and precise SEM failure analysis
Whether researchers work to perform plastic failure analysis or monitor microplastic pollution, they need a fast and precise way to analyze their samples. The Thermo Scientific Phenom ProX Desktop Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) meets this need, offering a quick and flexible tool for examining diverse plastic samples with minimal sample preparation.
One research laboratory that’s using the Phenom ProX Desktop SEM is the Materials and Failure Analysis Department of Kunstoff-Institute Lüdenscheid based in Germany. The laboratory completes more than 1,000 cases annually, exploring the texture, morphology, orientation and other characteristics of a diverse range of plastics to determine the cause of failure for plastic components.
The laboratory chose the Phenom ProX Desktop SEM to conduct their plastics microscopy analyses because of its high flexibility and fast time-to-data. The Phenom ProX Desktop SEM’s low vacuum sample holder makes it possible to image non-conductive samples which would otherwise require extensive sample preparation. Using the SEM in combination with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) helps users perform nondestructive chemical analyses.
Plastics are often reinforced with glass beads. To create high-quality plastic, the beads must be evenly distributed, and the plastic must still bend appropriately. Using the Phenom ProX Desktop SEM, researchers can see the distribution of the glass beads as well as the bonding of these beads to the surrounding plastic matrix after several recycling processes, giving them further insight into how the material degrades over time.
Using our Phenom ProX Desktop SEM, researchers at Kunstoff-Institute Lüdenscheid can easily examine the distribution of glass beads and how they bond to the plastic material they’re designed to reinforce. Using these analyses, researchers can determine how plastic components degrade over time.
Highly reliable microplastics information
Another customer uses the Phenom ProX Desktop SEM to analyze the quantity and types of microplastics in the environment as well as trace pollutants found on the surface of these microplastics.
Since environmental samples contain a variety of substances, it can be difficult to accurately identify the microplastics. To perform these analyses, researchers typically use spectroscopy combined with human observation: manually searching for objects that stand out and selecting which ones get analyzed using spectroscopy. Not only is this process time-consuming, but it’s also prone to human error. Moreover, the particle size and surface morphology are not determined.
The back-scattered electron (BSE) image on the left shows a few very bright particles, which are probably pieces of metal. Since the customer is only interested in studying microplastics, these particles could be excluded from being analyzed further. Conversely, on the secondary electron (SE) image on the right we see numerous non-conductive particles, as the charging effects are quite apparent.
The Phenom ProX Desktop SEM therefore enabled the customer to study both the chemical nature and quantity of microplastics: By combining the two detectors, the customer could save time by not erroneously performing additional analysis on the wrong particles. Using EDS, they can determine the elemental composition of microplastics.
A versatile solution for plastics microscopy
The Phenom ProX Desktop SEM offers fast, high-resolution imaging in addition to integrated chemical analysis via EDS, making it the ideal solution for a wide range of applications involving plastics microscopy. Minimal sample preparation is required, and the time from sample to result is class-leading, improving both their productivity and the quality of their results.
To learn more, visit the Phenom ProX Desktop SEM webpage.
Willem van Zyl is an application engineer at Thermo Fisher Scientific.
Leave a Reply