The Unknown Sample
A complete unknown (How does it feel?)
Blocked pipes? Scale buildup? Weird particulates? Interesting rocks? Mysterious dust?
We can help you find out what it is and where it came from.
Identifying an unknown sample is always an entertaining challenge. Without any idea of the origin of a sample, the first step is visually assessing the most appropriate analytical technique (smell and texture can help too). From there we can pick which technique or series of techniques will be the most appropriate.
Scanning Electron Microscopy with Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (SEM EDS) can be used the determine the elemental composition of the unknown and the morphology (shape) of the particles. Sometimes this is enough to identify the material and the possible origin.
X-ray Diffaction (XRD) is appropriate for crystalline samples, materials where the atoms form a repeating pattern. We choose to do XRD if the material appears clearly crystalline or if the SEM indicates that the material is likely crystalline and that the elemental composition could indicate the presence of multiple substances. XRD will give the type and relative concentrations of the crystalline phases in the unknown.
Fourier Transform Infra-red Spectroscopy (FTIR) is able to identify certain organic compounds, so if the SEM shows an elemental composition indicative of an organic substance (or if the initial assessment shows that the unknown is likely organic) then FTIR could help to identify it.
We also have a wide range of other techniques at our disposal, including GCMS, ICP, XPS, BET, Brightness/Colour and much more. Each step of the way, we assess what we've found out and what the next step should be, if there even needs to be one.
We transform a complete unknown to a story to be told.