Expert, Independent Microscopy Testing & Analysis Services

Modern microscopy allows us to obtain images from objects that cannot be seen with the unaided eye. The three main branches of microscopy analysis are optical, electron, and scanning probe microscopy.

To characterize a sample of unknown morphology, we start with the simplest method of optical microscopy (OM), with a magnification of 10-1,000x, using transmitted light (bright field) for transparent and semitransparent samples, or reflected light for opaque samples.

To obtain higher magnification or better resolution, down to micro, nano, and molecular levels, we use Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) or Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). We select microscopy methods depending on the application needs and the parameters of the sample. Images are acquired by integrated CCD cameras and are subjected to further analysis.

Microscopy methods offer a great way to understand and characterize the structural features of products on micro and nano scales. The high magnifications provided by transmission and scanning electron and  microscopies offer tremendous value in identifying and assessing tiny variables that can lead to undesirable characteristics, or serve to explain superior performance in a final product. Often, a combination of OM and SEM are the first tools used to assess a surface in a failed part to help determine the cause of the failure, such as whether the part failed in a ductile or brittle fashion.

High-resolution microscopy testing is widely used in material science, polymer composites, particulate analysis, nanotechnology, and semiconductor research. PSI frequently uses microscopy methods to test:

  • Nanomaterials
  • Textiles
  • Films
  • Coatings
  • Molded Parts
  • And many other materials
  • Microscopy Methods & Approaches

    PSI is a microscopy testing lab with 25 years of experience in the following methods, and more:

    Optical Microscopy (OM) uses visible light to magnify a sample area 10-1,000x. This microscopy analysis technique often is the first one to be used before additional microscopy testing.

    Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) uses an electron beam passing through a very thin slice of the specimen and is best for obtaining information about transparent or semitransparent films, or biological structures with nanometer resolution.

    Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) scans the surface of the sample with a highly focused electron beam to obtain a surface image. SEM can be coupled with Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS) to allow us to determine the elemental composition of the sample.

    Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) uses a mechanical cantilever with a sharp tip to scan a flat specimen surface with highest resolution down to a fraction of a nanometer. It can work in ambient conditions.

    Optical Birefringence is used to assess existing mechanical stress in transparent materials. The sample is examined in a nondestructive way between cross-polarizing filters.

    Image Analysis allows our scientists to extract meaningful information, such as size and geometry of morphological characteristics, from the microscopic images.

    Digital Microscopy

    Hot Stage Microscopy

  • Microscopy Applications & Experience

    Common applications of microscopy testing and analysis include:

    Polymer Solutions Incorporated is an independently-owned Virginia company with ISO 17025 accreditation and FDA registration. Our scientists have decades of experience using microscopy testing and analysis for:

    We have extensive experience testing copolymers and blends. Please contact us to discuss your specific needs and sample considerations.

    • Analyzing the uniformity, size, and distribution of filler components in a composite sample
    • Measuring the layer thickness of multilayer products
    • Determining the phase morphology of a material
    • Contamination analysis
    • Competitor product comparison and analysis
    • Serving as a component of product failure analysis investigation
    • Fractography analysis
    • Analyzing the uniformity, thickness, and porosity of a coating
    • And many more

    Polymer Solutions Incorporated is an independently-owned Virginia company with ISO 17025 accreditation and FDA registration. Our scientists have decades of experience using microscopy testing and analysis for:

    • Part dimensions
    • Particle size distribution
    • Fiber dimensions
    • Failure analysis
    • Morphology
    • Pigment dispersion
    • And much more
  • Tool Spotlight: Scanning Electron Microscope

    One of our most frequently used microscopes for microscopy testing is our SEM/EDS (Scanning Electron Microscopy) microscope, which is armed with X-ray microanalysis. This microscope can magnify small things to extreme -- really extreme -- close-up, up to 650,000x. For a comparison, looking at an object on a sample at 500,000x magnification is like taking a satellite image of the United States and zooming in on a single truck!

    The SEM Microscope has an array of uses, including:

    • Generating high-resolution images of objects' shapes, such as crystalline structure in nanofoam
    • Showing spatial variations in chemical compositions
    • Precise measurement of very small features and objects
    • Spot chemical analysis (using EDS)
    • Investigative detective work on materials, such as this example to uncover art history
    • And many more uses

    Our SEM/EDS microscope is just one of several tools and approaches we use to solve complex challenges. 

    Please contact us with any questions, or for more information about microscopy or any of our other testing services.