Microscopy and Surface Analysis

The following section introduces some of the methods we employ in surface analysis. It also features their principle of operation and some typical applications.

Electron Microscopy (SEM-EDX)scanning electron microscope (SEM-EDX)

  • The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) is an instrument used to image surface structures. One receives images of high resolution and depth of field. Additionally, the distribution of various materials can be visualized. With the help of energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDX), the various samples areas can be analyzed for the elements present.
  • Areas of Application: Structure and composition of components, failure analysis, spots and impurities, analysis of competitive products, …

Surface Analysis (ESCA)ESCA/XPS-spectrometer

  • Electron spectroscopy for chemical analysis (also XPS) analyzes (semi-quantitatively) the elemental composition at the very surface (10-15 atomic layers) of solids. Additionally, information regarding the binding conditions of the elements is obtained. Removing the surface layers through sputtering allows the measurement of the depth distribution of the elements (depth profile).
  • Areas of Application: Adhesion, wetting problems, coating delamination, surface and boundary area characterizations, corrosion protection, reactivity of catalysts, …

Surface Analysis (AFM)

  • The AFM (Atomic Force Microscopy) is a microscopic method in which the surface of a sample is scanned with a fine tip. One receives the complete three-dimensional information regarding the topography of a surface. With appropriate samples, an atomic resolution is reached. The measurements can be conducted in gases or fluids.
  • Areas of Application: Analysis of micro roughness, measurement of smallest differences in height, visualization of the local distribution of chemical information on the surface, …

Molecular Spectroscopy (IR/Raman/UV-Vis)

  • Molecular spectroscopy deals with the absorption and/or diffusion of incident light. This is characteristic for certain molecule fragments. The spectra obtained show bands specific for certain molecular components whereby particularly organic material can be identified.
  • Areas of Application: Analysis of organic components, polymer characterization, failure analysis, spots and impurities, analysis of competitive products, …

BET Surface Area Determination

  • The BET-method uses gas adsorption to determine the specific surface area of a sample.
  • Areas of application: Surface of porous materials or powders (catalysts, pigments, …)

Surface Roughness

  • Using a Perthometer, the sample surface is scanned by a needle of defined geometry, enabling the calculation of defined surface roughness parameters.
  • Areas of application: Surface profile, corrugation and roughness, bearing ratio, peak-to-valley height, …