To assist with her research studies into titanium-based alloy powders, Asma Salman, a PhD student at the University of Waikato, makes use of electron and X-ray microscopy to probe the structure of the materials she is developing. Tensile testing is also used to assess the physical strength of the material.
Asma explains how she does this and how the information gained can be interpreted.
Point of interest
Can you think of other applications for electron microscopy?
In materials science, there are a number of tools used for track transition purpose or for the research purpose, but three are the most fundamental ones. One is electron microscopy, and then X-rays and then tensile testing.
And mechanical testing is actually a process of assessing the mechanical properties of the material. We can get idea about ultimate strength of a material, stress, strain, Young’s modulus and fracture. Such kinds of things we can get through the mechanical testing procedure. By the tensile testing, we keep on applying the load on the surface of the material, then there comes a point where the material breaks into pieces, so that is the point we can assess is the failure for the material.
And the X-ray is actually electromagnetic radiation which is used to identify the material, and once we have identified the material, it is very easy to assess the structural activity by using X-rays. And X-rays actually provide us certain kind of unique peaks. From those peaks, we can easily guess what kind of material it is, and we can easily determine the structure because there are unique planes and directions.
Whereas electron microscopy is where a high voltage electron beam is used, and we get a very highly magnified image of the specimen, and we can easily determine the material, the structure and composition of the material.