microanalysis

Endless Summer

Matt Nowell, EBSD Product Manager, EDAX

My family and I love the beach. We love to swim in the water, ride the waves, and play in the sand. Each summer we typically spend time at Sunset Beach, North Carolina. After years of seeing the cool stuff in the SEM, materials science and microscopy are always topics of discussion. This year, after enjoying the musical Hamilton, my wife was inspired to start working on a periodic table of elements rap song. My 13-year-old learned more about metalworking watching the History Channel show, Forged in Fire, where participants are challenged to make different weapons from assorted metallic sources. My favorite part was watching them evaluate different parts of a bicycle for heat-treatable steel to recycle. One of my favorite moments though was unpacking my beach shoes on the first day.

Generally, when we visit a beach, we try to bring home a shell or a piece of driftwood. However, when I was putting on my shoes for the first time, I noticed some sand was still present. My last beach trip had been to the Cayman Islands. I immediately noticed that this sand looked much different than the sand at Sunset Beach. I decided to save a little bit of each for some microscopy and microanalysis when I got back home.

When I looked at them both more closely, I saw that the sand from Sunset Beach (SB) on the left was much darker with black flecks, while the sand from Grand Cayman (GC) was much lighter. Thinking about the possible composition of the sand got me thinking about the bladesmithing competition held at the TMS annual meetings. One year, the team from UC Berkeley created a sword using magnetite found at local beaches using magnets. I thought it would be interesting to examine both of these sands with my SEM, EDS, and EBSD tools.

Sand grains from Sunset Beach
Sand grains from Sunset Beach.
Sand grains from Grand Cayman
Sand grains from Grand Cayman.

 

Initially I placed a bit of sand on an aluminum stub for SEM and EDS analysis. To reduce charging effects, I used the Low Vacuum capability of our FEI Teneo FEG-SEM, running at 0.1 mbar pressure. Images were collected using the Annual BackScatter (ABS) detector for atomic number contrast imaging. The sand grains from Sunset Beach were generally a little smaller than the Grand Cayman sand, as expected from visual inspection. Both sands exhibited cracking and weathering, which isn’t surprising in hindsight either. Many grains show flat surfaces, with internal structure visible with ABS imaging contrast.

I followed the imaging work with compositional analysis using EDS. The Sunset Beach sand was primarily composed of silicon and oxygen grains, which I suspect is quartz. The single brighter grain in Figure 3 was composed of an iron-titanium oxide. The Grand Cayman sand was primarily a calcium carbonate (Ca-C-O) material. The more needle shaped grains were primarily sodium and chlorine, which I assume is then salt that has solidified during the evaporation of the water. All this leads me to believe I really didn’t do a good job of cleaning my shoes after Grand Cayman.

While quartz being present in sand wasn’t surprising to me, the observation of calcium carbonate did remind me of some geological homework I did on the island. The water in Grand Cayman was very clear, which made it great for snorkeling. We swam around and saw a coral reef, a sunken ship, lots of fish, and stingrays. To understand why the water was so clear, I read that it was the lack of topsoil, and the erosion and runoff of topsail to the water that was responsible for the clarity. Looking again at this reference, it mentions that the top layer of the island is primarily composed of carbonates. The erosion of this material would explain the primary composition of the beach sand in my shoes.

Of course, the next step now is analyzing these sands with EBSD to determine the crystal structure of the materials. I’ve started the process. I’ve mounted some of the sand in epoxy, and hand polished to get some flat surfaces for analysis. I’m able to get EBSD patterns, but getting a good background is going to be tricky. I think the next step will be to watch my colleague Shawn Wallace’s webinar on Optimizing Backgrounds on MultiPhase samples to be presented on September 27th. You can also register for this here.

In the meantime, I’ll keep the sand samples on my desk to remind me of summer as the colder Utah winters will be approaching. It will be a good reason to stay inside and write the next chapter of this analysis for another blog post.

One, Two, Three Times an Intern

Kylie Simpson, Summer Intern at EDAX

Kylie ‘at home’ in the Applications Lab.

This summer was my third working for the EDAX Applications Team. It has been an amazing opportunity to be directly involved with research, customer support, and software testing here in Mahwah. I was able to continue with the APEX™ software testing that I worked on last summer which I found incredibly interesting because I’ve been able to observe the software evolve to best meet customer needs and improve in overall performance. I also had the chance to attend the Microscopy and Microanalysis (M&M) show in Baltimore, MD. This was an incredible experience for an undergraduate student, like me, interested in Materials Science and Microscopy. I was able to connect with people in the field, attend talks on topics at the forefront of Microscopy research, and present a poster that I have been helping out with this summer here at EDAX.

The majority of my time this year has been focused on helping Dr. Jens Rafaelsen, the head of the Mahwah Applications Team, with the data collection and analysis for a paper on the effects of Variable Pressure on EDS. Although Variable Pressure is an incredibly useful tool for studying SEM samples that are susceptible to charging, the introduction of gas to the specimen chamber has implications that must be considered when collecting EDS spectra. Additional gas particles in the SEM chamber lead to a scattering of the electron beam, known as beam spread or beam skirting.

In order to study and quantify this phenomenon, we used a double insulated Faraday cup with a 10 µm aperture, pictured below, to measure the unscattered beam at different pressures and working distances. We also modeled this beam scattering using Monte Carlo simulations that consider the SEM geometry as well as the type of gas in the chamber, which vary based on the type of SEM. Based on our experimental and theoretical results, we determined that as much as 85% of the electron beam is scattered outside of the 10 µm diameter high pressures of 130 Pa. This is much more scattering than we had anticipated, based on previous papers on this subject, making these results incredibly important for anyone using variable pressure in the SEM.

Double insulated Faraday cup with a 10 µm aperture.


Unscattered Beam Percentage vs. Pressure: Theoretical

Unscattered Beam Percentage vs. Pressure: Experimental

Overall, I am very thankful for the opportunities that EDAX has given me this summer and in the past. As a member of the Applications Team, I was able to work alongside the Engineering, Software Development, Customer Support, and Sales teams in order to help provide customers with the best analysis tools for their needs. I also gained a deeper understanding of the research, data collection, and analysis processes for writing a paper to be published: a truly incredible experience for an undergraduate student. Above all, the plethora of knowledge and experience of those here at EDAX and their willingness to share this information with me and others has been the most valuable aspect of my time here.

Down Memory Lane

Sia Afshari, Global Marketing Manager, EDAX

For years I have been attending the Denver X-ray conference (DXC) and it is hard when it coincides with the Microscopy and Microanalysis Conference (M&M) as it has a few times in the past several years. It is just difficult for me to accept that the overlap is not avoidable!

My interests are twofold, marketing activities where my main responsibility lie, and technical sessions which still pique my curiosity and which are beneficial for future product development. In the past couple of years at M&M, it has been great to attend sessions devoted to the 50 year anniversaries of electron microscopy, technical evolution, and algorithms, where my colleagues have either been the subject of presentations or have given papers. I have had the fortune to meet and, in some cases, to reacquaint with some of the main contributors to the scientific advancement of electron microscopy.

Being at M&M, I have missed the final years of attendance at DXC of the “old-timers” who have retired. These are gentlemen, in the true meaning of the word, whom I have had the honor of knowing for over 30 years and who have been more than generous with their time with me. I recognize most of all their devotion and contribution in advancing x-ray analysis to where it is today. Their absence will be felt especially in the development of methodology and algorithm. As a friend, who was frustrated with the lack of availability of scientists with a deep knowledge in the field, recently put it, “these guys don’t grow on trees.”

Back at M&M this year, I listened to Frank Eggert talking about the “The P/B Method. About 50 Years a Hidden Champion”, and he brought back many memories. I recognized most of his referenced names, and the fact that they are no longer active in the industry! Looked around the room, I saw more people of the same hair color as mine (what is left). I thought about the XRF/XRD guys I used to know and who are also no longer around the industry. The old Pete Seeger song popped up in my mind with a new verse as; “where have all the algorithmic guys gone?”

Countdown to M&M…..

Patrick Camus, PhD, Director of Engineering, EDAX

This time of year is, at least in the US, preparation time for the Microscopy and Microanalysis (M&M) meeting. Like most big shows, every attendee has a significant amount of preparation to perform in the weeks (days?) leading up to their travel date. Most readers of this blog will be platform or poster presenters. You may be under stress to collect that last set of experimental data to fill that last hole in the analysis to finalize your presentation.

Life is not so different for the commercial exhibitors like EDAX. Unknown to the general participants, there are many departments under similar pressures to ensure a productive meeting for all attendees. Engineering is applying the finishing touches to new products. Software Engineering is approving the latest versions of software for release. Marketing Communications is contacting current and prospective customers to attend equipment demos and workshops during the exhibition hours. Marketing is receiving the final graphics of product literature for decorating the booth. Service is scheduling engineers to install all the EDAX microanalysis systems in our booth and those of our electron microscope associates. Applications scientists are finalizing their presentations for the meeting but also for the demos and EDAX workshops to be performed in our booth. Logistics is coordinating the hotels for our employees and shipping our equipment both to and from the venue. About the only employees not under stress before the meeting are Sales who coast now but are under the most stress (or is it strain) during the week of the show.

The exhibitors may seem very relaxed to the visitors during the show, but that image derives from the total effort that they are putting forth now so that you have the best experience possible.

We look forward to seeing all of you in Baltimore, or your next show!

Click here for more information about EDAX at this year’s event.

Building an EBSD Sample

Matt Nowell, EBSD Product Manager, EDAX

Father’s Day is this weekend, and I like to think my kids enjoy having a material scientist for a father. They have a go-to resource for math questions, science projects are full of fun and significant digits, and when they visit the office they get to look at bugs and Velcro with the SEM. I’m always up to take them to museums to see crystals and airplanes and other interesting things as we travel around. That’s one way we have tried to make learning interactive and engaging. Another activity we have recently tried is 3D printing. This has allowed us to find or create 3D digital models of things and then print them out at home. Here are some fun examples of our creations.
At home we are printing with plastics, but in the Material Science world there is a lot of interest and development in printing with metals as well. This 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is rapidly developing as a new manufacturing approach for both prototyping and production in a range of industries including aerospace and medical implants. Instead of melting plastics with a heated nozzle, metal powders are melted together with lasers or electron beams to create these 3D shapes that cannot be easily fabricated by traditional approaches.

In these applications, it is important to have reliable and consistent properties and performance. To achieve this, the microstructure of the metals must be both characterized and understood. EBSD is an excellent tool for this requirement.

The microstructures that develop during 3D printing are very interesting. Here is an example from a Ni-based superalloy created using Selective Laser Melting (SLM). This image shows a combined Image Quality and Orientation (IQ + IPF) Map, with the orientations displayed relative to the sample normal direction. Rather than equiaxed grains with easily identifiable twin boundaries, as are common with many nickel superalloys, this image shows grains that are growing vertically in the structure. This helps indicate the direction of heat flow during the manufacturing process. Understanding the local conditions during melting and solidification helps determine the final grain structure.
In some materials, this heating and cooling will cause not only melting, but also phase transformations that also affect the microstructure. Ti-6Al-4V (or Ti64) is one of the most common Titanium alloys used in both aerospace and biomedical applications, and there has been a lot of work done developing additive manufacturing methods for this alloy. Here is an IQ + IPF map from a Ti64 alloy built for a medical implant device.
At high temperatures, this alloy transforms into a Body-Centered Cubic (or BCC) structure called the Beta phase. As the metal cools, it transforms into a Hexagonal Closed Pack (HCP) structure, called the Alpha phase. This HCP microstructure develops as packets of similarly oriented laths as seen above. However, not all the Beta phase transforms. Here is an IQ + Phase EBSD map, where the Alpha phase is red and the Beta phase is blue. Small grains of the Beta phase are retained from the higher temperature structure.
If we show the orientations of the Beta grains only, we see how the packets relate to the original Beta grains that were present at high temperatures.
The rate of cooling will also influence the final microstructure. In this example, pieces of Ti64 were heated and held above the Beta transition temperature. One sample was then cooled in air, and another was quenched in water. The resulting microstructures are shown below. The first is the air-cooled sample.
The second is the water-cooled sample.

Clearly there is a significant difference in the resulting structure based on the cooling rate alone. As I imagine the complex shapes built with additive manufacturing, understanding both the local heating and cooling conditions will be important for optimization of both the structure and the properties.

A Little Background on Backgrounds

Dr. Stuart Wright, Senior Scientist EBSD, EDAX

If you have attended an EDAX EBSD training course, you have seen the following slide in the Pattern Indexing lecture. This slide attempts to explain how to collect a background pattern before performing an OIM scan. The slide recommends that the background come from an area containing at least 25 grains.

Those of you who have performed re-indexing of a scan with saved patterns in OIM Analysis 8.1 may have noticed that there is a background pattern for the scan data (as well as one of the partitions). This can be useful if re-indexing a scan where the raw patterns were saved as opposed to background corrected patterns. This background pattern is formed by averaging 500 patterns randomly selected from the saved patterns. 500 is a lot more than the minimum of 25 recommended in the slide from the training lecture.

Recently, I was thinking about these two numbers – is 25 really enough, is 500 overkill? With some of the new tools (Callahan, P.G. and De Graef, M., 2013. Dynamical electron backscatter diffraction patterns. Part I: Pattern simulations. Microscopy and Microanalysis, 19(5), pp.1255-1265.) available for simulating EBSD patterns I realized this might be provide a controlled way to perhaps refine the number of orientations that need to be sampled for a good background. To this end, I created a set of simulated patterns for nickel randomly sampled from orientation space. The set contained 6,656 patterns. If you average all these patterns together you get the pattern at left in the following row of three patterns. The average patterns for 500 and 25 random patterns are also shown. The average pattern for 25 random orientations is not as smooth as I would have assumed but the one with 500 looks quite good.

I decided to take it a bit further and using the average pattern for all 6,656 patterns as a reference I compared the difference (simple intensity differences) between average patterns from n orientations vs. the reference. This gave me the following curve:
From this curve, my intuitive estimate that 25 grains is enough for a good background appears be a bit optimistic., but 500 looks good. There are a few caveats to this, the examples I am showing here are at 480 x 480 pixels which is much more than would be used for typical EBSD scans. In addition, the simulated patterns I used are sharper and have better signal-to-noise ratios than we are able to achieve in experimental patterns at typical exposure times. These effects are likely to lead to more smoothing.

I recently saw Shawn Bradley who is one of the tallest players to have played in the NBA, he is 7’6” (229cm) tall. I recognized him because he was surrounded by a crowd of kids – you can imagine that he really stood out! This reminded me that these results assume a uniform grain size. If you have 499 tiny grains encircling one giant grain, then the background from these 500 grains will not work as a background as it would be dominated by the Shawn Bradley grain!

One Analysis Technique – So Many Options!

Roger Kerstin, North America Sales Manager, EDAX

X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) solutions – which type of XRF instrument should I choose?

Most of the XRF systems out there are very versatile and can be used in many different applications, but they are typically suited for a specific type of analysis. Since the discovery of XRF many decades ago there have been new developments and new instruments just about every year. The term Florescence is applied to phenomena in which the absorption of radiation of a specific energy results in the re-emission of radiation of a different energy. There are two different types of detectors for XRF systems: Wavelength Dispersive (WDS) and Energy Dispersive (EDS).

In energy dispersive analysis, the fluorescent X-rays emitted by the material sample are directed into a solid-state detector which produces a “continuous” distribution of pulses, the voltages of which are proportional to the incoming photon energies. This signal is processed by a multichannel analyzer (MCA) which produces an accumulating energy spectrum that can be processed to obtain analytical data.

In wavelength dispersive analysis, the fluorescent X-rays emitted by the material sample are directed into a diffraction grating monochromator. The diffraction grating used is usually a single crystal. By varying the angle of incidence and take-off on the crystal, a single X-ray wavelength can be selected. The wavelength, and therefore the energy, obtained is given by Bragg’s law:

nλ = 2d Sinθ

In the XRF world there are many different types of instruments to choose from: large systems to small systems; high powered systems to low powered systems, floor standing systems to benchtop to portable systems.

What do I choose, where do I start?

The answer to these questions is that it really depends on the samples you are trying to measure and the performance you are trying to achieve. I really classify these instruments in 3 different categories: bulk, portable, and small spot.

Bulk XRF: This typically means that you have samples that are either powders, liquids or even solids that you need to analyze quickly. Bulk instruments have a large x-ray spot size to excite a lot of the elements fast and get a quick answer. They can be EDS or WDS instruments, benchtop or floor standing, and low or high power. The kind of analyzer will determine what you can or cannot measure. The higher the power, the lighter the elements and the lower the concentrations. The benchtops typically are lower power (50kv and lower) and are usually decent for go/no go type analysis and even everyday type of analysis when super low LOD’s are not needed, or light elements (below Na) are not of a concern. If you need lighter elements or lower LOD’s then typically you would go with a high power WDS system and these typically can go up to 4kw of power and have a vacuum chamber or He environment .

Portable XRF: This is just what is says – portable. These analyzers are typically used for sorting metals, in the geological field, or anything that you can’t just bring to the lab. The performance of these have come a long way and they are a critical tool for many industries. They tend to have a larger spot size but since they are portable they must be light to carry around all day. They are typically lower power and lower current, which does not allow them to have the same type of performance as the lab type instruments but usually they are good for sorting and identifying samples. They are also very good for ancient artifacts or paintings that can’t be brought to a lab.

μXRF (Micro spot XRF): These are the instruments that have a small spot size compared to all other XRF systems and they are used in smaller sample identification or mapping of a sample. There are several different types of μXRF analyzers. Some use collimators to focus the beam (this typically loses intensity) for applications like coating thickness testing or alloy id. These are usually designed to be inexpensive and benchtop for quality control applications. They are versatile but also limited to the elements they can measure. Most of these only analyze down to Potassium as they usually do the analysis in an air environment. Then there are μXRF systems that use optics to focus the x-ray to smaller spot sizes. These are used for more in-depth analysis, and are equipped with a vacuum chamber, mapping and low LODs.

Before buying an XRF system many factors must be taken into consideration and you need to ask yourself some of the following questions to really determine the best fit for your applications.

• How big is my sample?
• Can I destroy my sample?
• What levels of detection do I need to measure?
• How many samples per day will I measure?
• Can I pull a vacuum with my sample?
• What elements do I need to measure?
• What type of flexibility do I need for multiple sample types?
• What size features or samples do I need to measure?
• How much money do I have?

As you can see there are many questions to answer and many options for XRF instruments. The more you know about what you want to measure, the better you can narrow down your search for the proper instrument.

XRF is a very powerful technique but you do need to get the proper tool for the job.
Happy hunting and good luck!