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Materials Characterization

Sample Preparation

The CAVS sample preparation lab provides a safe and accurate environment for using microstructural characterization equipment to prepare materials samples for use. Specimens are mounted and then polished using a variety of manual and auto-polishing equipment. Other capabilities include etching, water-cooled cutting, and sputter coating.

Chemical Analysis

CAVS researchers collect data on detailed chemical composition to aid in developing advanced alloys. Chemical analysis capabilities include spectrometry, carbon and sulfur analysis, and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy.

LECO 744 Carbon and Sulfur Analyzer determines carbon and sulfur in metals, ores and other inorganic materials. System highlights include:

  • 18 MHz, 2.2 kW induction furnace for rapid and consistent combustion
  • Integrated oxygen lance floods crucible with high-purity oxygen to promote complete combustion and improved recovery
  • Individual wide-range IR detection for both carbon and sulfur

SPECTROMAX can analyze all of the chemical elements required by the metal industry, including traces of carbon, phosphorus, sulfur and nitrogen. The spectrometer is well-suited for applications like:

  • die cast or injection molding
  • standard requirements in steel or non-ferrous foundries
  • multi-matrix applications for incoming and outgoing inspection


The microscopy facilities at CAVS include optical and scanning electron microscopes. We also have access to transmission electron microscopy through our member center, the Institute for Imaging and Analytical Technologies (I2AT). Our FEG and environmental SEMs are equipped with EBSD and EDS capabilities.

The SUPRA 40 is a general purpose high resolution FESEM. Combining excellent imaging properties with analytical capabilities makes this workhorse suitable for a wide range of applications, such as materials development, failure analysis, nanotechnology and analytical applications.
The large specimen chamber allows the opportunity to better configure the SUPRA 40 for specific applications without sacrificing efficiency. System characteristics include:

  • superb resolution and image quality at low operating voltages
  • wide operating voltage range with minimal adjustments required
  • short working distance for simultaneous high resolution imaging and X-ray analysis
  • high probe current and high stability better than 0.2%/h for analytical applications

The ZEISS Axiovert 200 optical microscope reaches 2500x magnification, and includes light and dark field and DIC, motorized stage, and an automatic 1000 X-ray inspection system.

3D Analysis

Non-destructive test methods such as X-ray computed tomography allow CAVS researchers to evaluate the internal and external structures of material samples. In addition to X-ray CT, we can also do surface profilometry and particle size distribution.

Features of the Taylor-Hobson Talysurf CLI 2000 Gauge System include:

  • 3-d surface measurement, down to 10 nm accuracy
  • 3 non-touch and one touch measurement

The Nikon XT H 225ST provides a 225 kV microfocus X-ray source with a 3 ┬Ám focal spot size.

Abilities of the Horiba Partica Laser Diffraction Particle Size Distribution Analyzer include:

  • Measures wet and dry samples measuring 10 nanometers to 3 millimeters
  • +/- 0.6% of standard tolerance on these NIST-traceable polystyrene latex standards: 100 nm, 500 nm, 1.020 um, 12.01 um, 102 um & 1004 um
  • +/- 0.1% coefficient of variation (COV) on these NIST-traceable polystyrene latex standards: 100 nm, 500 nm, 1.020 um, 12.01 um, 102 um & 1004 um

Chemical, Thermal and Mechanical Properties

Dynamic Mechanical Analyzer (DMA) Q800
Provides precise control of stress and measures strain using optical encoder. The DMA is ideal for high-stiffness applications, including composites.

  • Temperature range: -150 to 600 degC
  • Modulus range: 103 to 1012 Pa
  • Frequency range: 0.01 to 200 Hz
  • Maximum Force: 18 N
  • Minimum Pretension: 0.001 N (for tensile test)
  • Tan delta range : 0.0001 to 10

Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC)
Measures melting temperature and heat of fusion, crystallization, glass transition and bound water. Serves as a simple liquid nitrogen cooling accessory for temperatures as low as 170 C and as a cryothermostat cooling device for intermediate temperature ranges: from 80 C to + 200 C under a flow of helium and from -50 C to + 500 C under a flow of argon, nitrogen or dry air.

  • Temperature range: -170 to 700 deg C
  • Atmosphere: Nitrogen, Argon, Air and mixed gases
  • Resolution: 0.4 W
  • Crucible volume: 30/100 l Noise RMS: 0.8 W
  • Time constant: 3s


  • Tmax: 2400 deg C
  • Atmosphere: Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Argon, Air and mixed gases
  • Modular system: interchangeable DTA, DSC, and TGA modules with the same basic structure
  • High-precision balance in high position, available with two weighing capacities: 35 g or 100 g
  • Simultaneous TGA-DTA measurements up to 2400 degC, with TGA-DSC up to 1600 degC
  • Coupling with MS, FTIR, GC, etc. gas analyzers by either thermo regulated capillary or the Supersonic System (sampling by supersonic expansion) for mass spectrometry measurements up to 1024 amu

Offers state-of-the-art corrosion testing technology, precision dispersion and ease of operation. Provides the best possible laboratory simulation of natural corrosion by exposing specimens to a series of different environments in a repetitive cycle, reproducing outdoor cyclic conditions.

Dilatometer UNITHERM MODEL 1161H
Measures the expansions and contraction of samples under temperature variation. Consists of a water-cooled purge gas collecting ring and solid copper line, as well as several back-flask screen (100 meshes) flame arrestors, installed at all inlets and exit ports.

  • Tmax: 1650 oC
  • Atmosphere: Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Argon, Air
  • Vacuum Operation (optional)
  • Vertical Push Rods
  • Hydrogen Purge: 10psi maximum (regulated) 0 to 0.5 LPM (0.2 LPM optimal operation)
  • Argon Purge: 20psi maximum (regulated) (15psi optimal operation)