Polymer Structure Analysis

Chemical Industry and Manufacturing

Light and electron microscopy investigations are indispensable instruments for polymer structure evaluations. They are of importance both in the chemical industry and the manufacture of plastic goods. Whether you deal with the production of polymers in their primary forms or are involved in the production of industrial and consumer products. Plastic parts and structural components play crucial roles in industry sectors like aerospace, automotive, and construction, as well as in medical equipment.


Crystal morphology affects not only all mechanical polymers properties, but may also determine its bio-degradability and bio-compatibility. In order to successfully control a polymer’s microstructure and achieve the desired properties, a good understanding of polymer crystallization is therefore required. Upright and polarization microscopy may be used to not just inspect the finished material, but to monitor crystal growth in situ (often in combination with a heating stage). Features of interest include the polymer morphology, structure and crystallinity, spherulites, and the onset of crystallization temperature.

Failure Analysis

Light microscopy is also used for failure analysis of failed parts or products. The surface structure of fracture planes provides information on cause of failure, defects, origin of cracks and so on. Once a polymer sample undergoes deformation, it shows bi-refringence due to internal rearrangement of the molecules. This phenomenon is used to study stresses in polymer materials, for example in mechanical components that may be exposed to strain, with the help of polarization microscopy. Polymer that has been mechanically sculpted during production – such as plastic formed by injection molding or extrusion – becomes likewise anisotropic and can be investigated using polarized light. This fact is used in process control and in the evaluation of tensile stress tests.

Surface Topography

For applications where you need to observe the surface topography of a plastic part, or measure roughness parameters, confocal microscopy is the technique of choice. With the aid of fluorescence, you can study polymer blends. In addition, confocal techniques detect non-homogeneities and defects underneath the surface, as for example cavities, pores and inclusions.

Sample Preparation

Electron microscopy is used for sample preparation such as milling, abration and generally structure the material for Light Microscopy.

Areas of Interest Include

  • Crystal morphology
  • Spherulites
  • Quantitative and qualitative polymer structure analysis
  • Surfaces of fracture planes
  • Interference pattern
  • Process control
  • Failure analysis
  • Roughness
  • Strain


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