Friday 24 January 2014

Full spectrum of metal analysis techniques!

The need for material verification is an increasingly important issue across a range of industries like aerospace, energy, rail and general engineering, since meeting the correct specifications can be critical to product performance, even public safety. The chemical analysis of metallic materials is one such procedure and it involves determining the precise elemental constituents of a test piece, to establish that it meets the required specification, to overcheck bought-in stock, to identify unknown material or to provide evidence in a product failure investigation.

The Chemical Analysis department of Keighley Labs offers an independent, bespoke service to aerospace manufacturers, the energy sector, rail industry, foundries, plating companies, galvanisers, component importers and general engineers, providing a fast turnaround and precise material verification. In addition to classic wet chemistry, it employs advanced Inductively Coupled Plasma, Atomic Absorption and Glow Discharge spectroscopy to ensure the optimum method for a particular application, as well as industry standard techniques for carbon, sulphur, oxygen and nitrogen analysis.

Part of Keighley Labs’ UKAS-accredited Metallurgical Laboratory Services capability, the chemistry department’s scope of accreditation covers an extensive range of ferrous and non-ferrous metallic materials, including iron, steel, stainless steel, aluminium and aluminium alloys, copper, cobalt, lead, nickel, tin and zinc alloys. Non UKAS accreditation also covers plating solutions, air quality filters and foundry consumables. It works in tandem with the company’s in-house Mechanical Testing, Metallography, Weld Testing, Problem & Failure Investigation and Heat Treatment departments to provide an all-encompassing technical service, housed on one site.

Headed by Chief Chemist, John Whitaker, and his senior colleague Graham Woodward, each with almost 40 years’ industry experience, the department combines in-depth scientific knowledge and practical expertise. Submitted specimens range in size from a minute speck of material, to a test bar or finished component of virtually any size; the team then determines the appropriate testing technique, according to material type, sample size, required turnaround time and complexity of analysis.

Inductively Coupled Plasma spectroscopy is a very sensitive technique for identification and quantification of elements in a test piece. It is an ideal tool for major and trace detection of a wide range of elements in solution, in which a dissolved sample is injected into argon gas plasma, and it enables analysis down to parts per million detection limits, across a wide range of metals and alloys. The technique can also be used for measuring impurity levels in plating solutions and galvanising systems.

Atomic Absorption spectroscopy is a highly sensitive analytical technique that can measure down to parts per million. It relies on the atomic absorption process for determining the concentration of elements of interest, by measuring the amount of light absorbed, and is particularly suitable for bespoke analysis applications.

When dealing with solid pieces of metal down to 15mm in diameter, the Glow Discharge spectrometer is often the instrument of choice, a typical application being the analysis of foundry discs. It enables rapid elemental determination in most ferrous materials and is an excellent technique for many routine applications. The characteristic ‘sputter’ pattern of glow discharge instrumentation ensures uniform material removal from the sample surface.

The Chemical Analysis team accepts commissions from anywhere in the world, providing samples can be delivered safely, and is able to analyse virtually any metallic or metal-related material. With today’s engineers working to ever-tighter technical specifications and the quality control of manufactured and bought-in parts always high on the agenda, the department’s services are in growing demand.

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