Down to the smallest detail: our experts have a wide range of analytical equipment at their disposal to characterize particles

Particle characterizations
© Fraunhofer IBP

At Fraunhofer IBP, we have a wide range of analytical resources in our labs for characterizing particles. For instance, we can determine the chemical-mineralogical composition of samples using conventional solid state analysis methods (X-ray diffraction and spectroscopy). When studying particles, the focus is generally on their morphology, size distribution and surface properties. We use various methods to analyze these in our laboratories.

Imaging techniques for examining (very small) particles

Using a 3D microscope, our scientists are able to image and visually examine microscopic particles and their agglomerates. To make particles visible in the sub-millimeter range, we use a special scanning electron microscope that is also equipped with a measuring probe for energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX). In this way, we can not only image micrometer-sized particles, but also analyze their elemental composition with spatial resolution.

When it comes to visualizing particles and surfaces in the nanometer range, we use an atomic force microscope (AFM). The outstanding Z-contrast allows height differences of less than one nanometer to be visually resolved. The atomic force microscope is also coupled with a nanoindenter so that we can study plastic and elastic deformability with spatial resolution.     

Fillings of particles or microporous structures (e.g. foams or aerated concrete) can be characterized by micro-computed tomography (micro-CT). Our tomograph allows us to create three-dimensional models of samples so that we can analyze the size distribution or volume of their pores, for example.

Determining size distribution, surface area and porosity

Our researchers can determine the grain size distribution and grading curves of macroscopic bulk materials (e.g. sand) using suitable test sieves down to a particle size of 63 micrometers. Particle size distributions down to the nanometer range are ascertained by laser diffraction (LDS) on the basis of dry bulk materials or dispersions. For this purpose, we have two powerful measuring instruments at our disposal that also enable us to determine zeta potentials and molecular masses.

We use a physisorption measuring instrument to analyze the specific surface area of highly porous samples (e.g. activated carbon or zeolites): The sorption isotherms thus recorded, evaluated according to the BET theory, provide information about the specific surface area and pore size distribution of the samples. In the case of building materials, we can also determine the specific surface area according to Blaine. Get in touch with us - we will gladly advise you on further measurement or analysis methods!