Faster Workflow for Ceramic R&D

From life-extending components to next-generation, renewable/alternative energy products, CoorsTek genuinely helps make the world measurably better. Using core strengths of custom engineering, materials expertise, operational excellence, and rapid execution, CoorsTek helps customers develop solutions to their toughest technical challenges.

Dr. Anthony Manerbino and Dr. Daniel Clark, Material and Ceramic Engineers at CoorsTek, began evaluating the Phenom desktop scanning electron microscope (SEM) to improve workflow and increase efficiency for bringing product to market. Turnaround time, accessibility, and microanalysis capability were key needs – all met with the Phenom SEM. The small footprint and low cost of ownership were also important criteria during the selection process. Having a personal SEM in the department allows the CoorsTek team to rapidly drive product development and reduce the time to market, providing new products faster to customers.

The team at CoorsTek has found the correlated optical navigation useful to locate or return to specific positions on samples, as shown here:

Correlative imaging with optical and electron microscope images from CoorTek for ceramic materials

Optical image (left) and corresponding electron (right) micrograph of ceramic material using the Phenom SEM 

The backscattered electron detector (BSD) shows material contrast, ideal for showing grain sizes and structures in ceramic materials. SEM imaging and understanding of ceramic particulate morphology provides insight to the final material properties and structure, as illustrated below:

SEM BSD images of ceramic powder morphology and resulting material microstructure

Backscatter electron micrographs of (a) ceramic powder agglomerates and (b) their effect on the ceramic microstructure 

Elemental analysis with energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS) is used to correlate the local chemistry with microstructure. EDS mapping with BSD imaging provides a complete picture of phase morphology for ceramic materials:

BSD and EDS from SEM for ceramic phases from CoorsTek

Backscatter electron (BSE) micrograph (left) and corresponding EDS maps (right) used to identify second phases on ceramic surfaces 

Additionally, the 3D Surface Reconstruction software with quantitative comparisons of surfaces provides for real-time feedback on ceramic processing: 

Surface roughness from SEM data using 3D Reconstruction for ceramic surfaces from CoorsTek

Surface roughness comparison of sample surface of three different treatments of ceramic surfaces using 3D Reconstruction 

Characterizing ceramic materials during product development with the Phenom desktop SEM in-house has increased the workflow efficiency and brought CoorsTek products to market more quickly for their customers.