The materials used in creating thermal insulation depend on fine fibres and minute pores to give them their special insulating characteristics. Naturally, the Thermal Ceramics business of Morgan Advanced Materials R&D has invested heavily in microscopy to ensure the best facilities for these important aspects. R&D operates both electron and optical microscopy, in both cases automated image analysis is available for the analysis of fibres and pores. The counting of fibres to WHO protocol is also a key expertise.
The department is equipped with a Malvern Instruments system that uses a PC controlled optical microscope with an automated sample stage. This instrument can be set to acquire tens of thousands of images of particles (usually fibres) from a specific sample, these images are then analysed using a pre-programmed routine to give an accurate measurement of the size distribution of the particles. The instrument can also be used as a conventional optical microscope to examine samples on a micron scale.
The Topcon Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) in the department is used to examine samples down to a nanometer scale. The high resolution allows observations to be made of features on the surface of fibres, this is particularly useful to aid understanding of the thermal history and reactivity of a sample. The electron microscope also has the capacity to automatically collect images for measurement of particle dimension on a smaller scale than the optical microscope. In addition to imaging the SEM also has an Energy Dispersive X-ray (EDX) analysis capability, allowing the measurement of the chemical composition of a particular region (or map of a larger area) of a sample to a resolution of around 1 micron.