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Chemical Analysis

Q.C. Metallurgical Laboratory Inc. has the ability and experience to meet all your chemical analysis needs. We have a wide range of spectroscopy equipment such as Optical Emission Spectrometer, (OES), inductively coupled plasma (ICP), Flame Atomic Absorption (FLAA), Scanning Electron Microscopy Electron Dispersive Spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) and Fourier Transmission Infrared (FTIR). With all of these sophisticated analytical instruments, QCML can conduct chemical analysis on any size sample ranging from particle size analysis by SEM-EDS to material grade identification on raw and finished products. We routinely conduct chemical analysis on the following materials.

ICP and FLAA Instrumentation

  • Steel
  • Stainless Steel
  • Aluminum
  • Titanium
  • Grey/Cast Iron
  • Tool Steel
  • Tungsten based alloys
  • Magnesium
  • Copper, Brass, Bronze Alloys
  • Inconel
  • Hastaloy
  • Iron based alloys
  • Carbon Steels
  • Polymers
  • Plastics

Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) and Flame Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (FLAA) Chemical Analysis

ICP and FLAA are known as “wet” chemical analysis. Usually these analytical methods are employed when the sample size has a unique geometry or is too small to analyze by other methods. When samples arrive they are drilled or cut, then approximately 0.25 - 1.0 grams of weighed out. Very small parts will be digested in their entirety. The weighed samples are digested in an acid matrix and heated until the metal dissolves in the acid. Standards are titrated along with the samples. The sample is then filtered and mixed with de-ionized water. The aqueous sample is now ready for analysis by either ICP or FLAA. Additional sample would be required for carbon and sulfur analysis by LECO combustion.

The aqueous sample is injected into either a plasma or flame and the excited molecules emit a characteristic wavelength that that determines the concentration of the solution which is then converted to a weight percent. ICP and FLAA analysis are more precise and take longer to complete. This is why ICP and FLAA analysis are more expensive than OES testing.


Typical Plasma Burn Marks

Niton XL2 Gold XRF Analyzer

Screen View of Chemistry

Hitachi S3400 SEM-EDS

Mag 500X
SEM Photograph of Fracture Surface

Digilab Excalibur FTIR with Spectrum

Optical Emission Spectroscopy (OES)

Optical Emission Spectroscopy is the standard chemical analysis conducted on metals for certification. It is typically faster and less expensive than ICP and FLAA. Typically a sample arrives and prepared by sectioning a piece off so we have a flat surface area with a minimum surface area of ½ inch2 and about 0.01” thick, depending on the material. The sample is then sanded until smooth. Once prepared the sample is place on the electrode. The electrode generates a plasma burn that excites the atoms, which give off different wavelengths based on the individual elements present in the sample. The instrument reads the wavelengths given off from the plasma burn and determines the materials chemistry. Typically the burns are conducted three per sample and the average is calculated and corrected by the OES software.

Non-Destructive Chemical Analysis (XRF) PMI Testing

Most chemical analysis on metal samples will damage the samples either from burning the sample or having to section the sample to fit into the instrument for analysis. Should you have finished parts that cannot be damaged but you would like to identify the material grade, then you need XRF analysis. QCML can conduct positive material identification (PMI) testing on your parts by utilizing our Niton XL2 Gold hand held XRF analyzer. We can go onsite and check your parts or verify your raw materials or you can send the samples to our laboratory. We also conduct sorting activities when two materials are inadvertently mixed.

PMI testing typically works best on materials that have alloying elements; it cannot determine carbon content so it is not very effective on low alloyed metals where carbon is the determining element. The instrument penetrates only the upper surface of the sample so it works well for identifying the type of coating.

Scanning Electron Microscopy Electron Dispersive Spectroscopy (SEM-EDS)

QCML utilizes a Hitachi S3400 Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with a Bruker AXS EDS unit attached when conducting microanalysis and failure analysis of solid materials. To generate the two dimensional image the SEM passes an electron beam over the surface of the sample, which generates the image with textures. The SEM can magnify samples up to 500,000X; typically we operate the SEM at 10X – 2500X.

The Electron Dispersive Spectrometer (EDS) used in conjunction with the SEM can focus a very narrow beam of electrons to determine the chemistry of very small particles. This is a much needed ability when conducting failure analysis and looking within microscopic pores/pits on samples for corrosion products. Chemical results generated by SEM-EDS are considered semi-quantitative.

Fourier Transmission Infrared (FTIR) Analysis on Polymers and Rubber Compounds

Not all of the materials we test are metal based. Many times we test rubbers, polymers/ plastics and organic materials to determine or verify the materials. QCML utilizes a Digilab Excalibur FTIR with an ATR crystal to conduct our analysis on solid samples or utilizes sodium chloride plates for liquids.

The science behind FTIR analysis is to utilize an infrared light to scan test samples and observe chemical properties. During FTIR analysis an absorbance spectra of the sample is created which generates information about varies unique chemical bonds and molecular structures of the sample. This data forms the absorption spectrum which shows peaks that represent compounds/components in higher concentrations. Different compounds, functional groups and chemical bonds absorb infrared radiation of different wave lengths. The spectrums that are generated from the sample are compared to a spectrum database of over 15,000 compounds. The instruments software automatically determines the best fit for the spectrums and identifies the closest match to identify/verify the sample.

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