ELEMENTAL MAPPING – Charting New Solutions in Wear Failures, Fractures and Defect Analysis

Photo – Elemental map of a wear particle filtered from a hydraulic system. Blue indicates the particle is an iron based alloy, such as a low alloy steel. The light red indicates the particle scraped against a zinc, or zinc plated, component during operation of the hydraulic system.

Instrumentation to perform chemical analyses of small, and even microscopic, amounts of material has been around for awhile. A highly practical form of this instrumentation is EDS, or energy dispersive spectroscopy. This technology is used in conjunction with the high magnification capabilities of a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to identify features and particles as small as one-fifty millionths of an inch in size for analysis.

Elemental mapping, using EDS generated data, has also been available for some time. Using this technique, “dot maps” are generated that show the location of analyst selected elements in a field of view collected on the SEM.

While valuable to obtain data available by no other practical means, these maps had their limitations. They were not sensitive to very small relative amounts of elements. A lot of background “noise” was also generated that degraded the resolution of the maps. In other words concentrations of a particular element appeared to have “fuzzy” edges or, in the case of microscopic particles, could not be distinctly resolved from random background indications.

Worst of all, they require huge amounts of data and as a result, the collection time needed to minimize these resolution short comings runs into hours or even the better part of a 24 hour day. These limitations make routine mapping, and the valuable data it could provide, economically unfeasible for many clients. It is also difficult for laboratories to delegate high demand SEM time to single analyses.

MAI recently resolved these disadvantages with our acquisition of the newest cutting edge EDS technology available. This instrumentation collects data 100 to 200 times faster than previously available instruments. It is also sensitive to extremely small relative amounts of a given element, and provides photographic levels of resolution.

In addition to these elemental mapping capabilities, this instrument combination can generate size, area, aspect ration, phase percentage and other data, opening new doors to materials engineering solutions. These include advanced wear failure particle analysis of filtered particulate, but the applications only begin there.

We would be happy to demonstrate this revolutionary technology for you and your company. Please call or email to schedule a time, or online demonstration, at your convenience.