Materials testing and analysis by SEM and EDX

Accredited testing laboratory for scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in combination with EDX analyses

REM-Aufnahme von Zinkoxid-Strukturen
© Fraunhofer IFAM
SEM image of zinc oxide structures
Austenitic microstructure
© Fraunhofer IFAM
Austenitic microstructure

Exact characterization and analysis of topography, morphology and pinpoint analysis of chemical elements of materials and components are prerequisites for optimization and quality assurance of products and processes. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) as well as energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX) are particularly well suited to evaluate, for example, fracture surfaces or elemental compositions in the micrometer range. Whether in mechanical engineering, the food industry or medical technology - as a testing laboratory accredited to DIN EN ISO/IEC 17025, we offer independent materials testing and thus support you in optimizing your products.


Our electron microscopes enable the examination of surfaces, microstructures and the analysis of chemical elements

In scanning electron microscopy (SEM), the surface to be analyzed is scanned with a finely focused electron beam. The electrons interact with the atoms of the sample at the surface. The energy emitted is detected by detectors and converted into image values. This enables us to obtain high-resolution images of the microstructures of a surface with high depth of field. A resolution of about 3nm is achieved, so that structures in the nanometer range can be imaged.

For deeper investigations, an SEM with Focused Ion Beam (FIB) is available at our institute. This allows insights under the surface in the micrometer range. In a two-beam arrangement, an ion beam is used to ablate material, allowing a view of the cut surface into the volume.

All our electron microscopes are equipped with a backscatter electron detector and an EDX detector. With the help of the backscatter detector (BSD) a representation of the material contrast is obtained, because heavy elements cause a higher intensity of the backscatter electrons than light elements. Accordingly, the areas of heavier elements in the images appear brighter than the areas of lighter elements. These images can thus be used to draw conclusions about the lateral distribution of different materials or elements in the sample under study.

Energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX) on the SEM can be used to determine very precisely the elemental composition of materials on the micrometer scale. The principle is based on the fact that each chemical element emits a characteristic X-ray radiation when excited. All elements of the periodic table starting with carbon can be determined. The EDX systems allow point measurements, area measurements and the measurement of element concentrations on a defined area or along a line (mappings and linescans).

Our different electron microscopes complement each other perfectly with regard to their specifications, so that we can support you in a wide variety of problems:

  • Fracture surface investigations
  • Surface topography investigations
  • Layer thickness measurements
  • Powder investigations (also nano-powders)
  • X-ray microanalysis (EDX): mappings (area analyses), linescans (line analyses), spots (point analyses)
  • Ion beam etching (FIB)
  • FIB/REM investigations also under cryo-conditions


Material analyses for research, development and industry

The application possibilities of scanning electron microscopy in combination with energy dispersive X-ray microanalysis are vast. Practically all solids such as metals, plastics, ceramics and glass can be analyzed. In addition, samples that are in the form of particles, powders or adhesions can also be examined.

Here are a few concrete examples of the use of our materials testing by SEM and EDX:

Sector: Application examples:
Research and Development
  • Mapping of finest structures
Mechanical Engineering
  • Fracture surface analysis
  • Microstructure verification
  • Determination of the material composition
  • Characterization of surface layers

Food Industry

  • Analysis of foreign bodies in food packaging or food production equipment
Pharmaceutical Industry
  • Characterization of the structure of active substances
  • Determination of the composition in individual areas of the active substances
Medical Technology
  • Fracture surface analysis of implant materials
  • Particle analysis in gearboxes
  • Fracture surface analysis on components
  • Examination of surfaces and coatings
  • Analysis of electrical contacts

On the basis of our analysis results, you can further develop your products in a targeted manner and avoid errors in production in the future. With our many years of experience with a wide range of materials, we will be happy to provide you with advice and support.


For tested quality: Accreditation according to DIN EN ISO/IEC 17025

Our testing laboratory has been accredited to DIN EN ISO/IEC 17025 since 1996 and is regularly audited by the German Accreditation Body (DAkkS). Thus, you can be sure that our professional competence and technical equipment meet the highest quality standards. Our test methods and reports are reliable and conform to the applicable standards and laws and are also internationally recognized and comparable. Of course, the accreditation also guarantees impartiality towards third parties. The accreditation applies to the test methods listed in the certificate.