Analysis of Nonwoven Polymer Fibres for Filtration with Desktop SEM

DSM provides novel products and solutions for customers in Material Sciences and Life Sciences. DSM Ahead is one of DSM’s key competence centers in research and development, supporting the company’s businesses, including Dyneema, Nutritional Products, Engineering Plastics, and Resins.

DSM Ahead has a variety of capabilities, from process technology to chemistry to material sciences and properties. It also works in close collaboration with neighboring departments of complementary capabilities, such as Colloids & Interfaces and Analytics.

The Requirement

One of DSM Ahead's research subjects is nonwovens for filtration. The competence center uses electrospinning to fabricate specific polymer fibers with a diameter down to 200nm (Figure 1). Fiber size and distribution are key aspects influencing filtration performance. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) can provide more accurate measurements of these key factors.

Polyamide nano-fiber-based nonwoven material prepared by electrospinning

Figure 1. Polyamide nano-fiber-based nonwoven material prepared by electrospinning

DSM has a central microscopy lab where users can access high-end imaging solutions for analyzing their samples. The company decided to procure a desktop SEM to increase the count of samples analyzed and facilitate ‘in line’ characterization during processing runs.

This accelerates the project work and increases the accessibility of the high-end SEM at the analytical center for in-depth analyses demanding higher resolution and more sophisticated sample preparation.

The Solution from Phenom-World

DSM looked for a desktop SEM that does not require a dedicated operator, and is easily accessible and operable by everyone without extensive SEM expertise or training. The Phenom desktop SEM perfectly fitted this profile. The Phenom is placed centrally in DSM’s research and development area from where it is accessible for all divisions.

DSM originally procured the Phenom to assist the nano-fibers project, but the system is now employed for different projects in multiple fields with a user count exceeding 30. The users include not only technicians but also interns and project leaders.

Applications of Phenom Desktop SEM at DSM

As the user count increases, the number of applications for which the Phenom is employed is also growing. Some of the applications in addition to nanofibers are as follows:

  • Post-mortem fracture analysis to gain insights into the mechanisms involved
  • Filler distribution in composite materials
  • Imaging of drug delivery systems after in vivo studies
  • Abrasion and scratch tests, including level of debris, on coatings, resin and glass
  • Process and application effects on the morphology of Dyneema yarns and tapes
  • Reactor powder morphology

DSM holds a lunchtime meeting every month to provide a stage for Phenom users to share their experience and discuss results and issues with microscopy specialists from the analytical department. Topics discussed include how to collect the best results or how to handle specific samples. This approach helps attendees to improve their skills.

DSM requires accurate measurements of the diameter of enough fibers to obtain a representative result. Additionally, it needs to manipulate the fiber morphology (whether branched, flat, round or sub-network) and quality. Another requirement is screening particles to check their similarity and zooming them in to reveal their geometry (Figure 2) and to find the location of damage or confirm the presence of any debris (Figure 3).

UHMWPE powder particles

Figure 2. UHMWPE powder particles

Damaged UHMWPE fibers

Figure 3. Damaged UHMWPE fibers

Knowing the particle size and morphology and determining the type of surface contamination is another requirement. Mesoscopic images are generally needed to provide these data and display a representative area (Figures 4 and 5).

Biodegradable particles used for sustainable drug delivery

Figure 4. Biodegradable particles used for sustainable drug delivery

Organic coating contaminated by fungi

Figure 5. Organic coating contaminated by fungi

About Phenom-World

Phenom-World is a worldwide market leader in desktop Scanning Electron Microscopes

(SEM). With our Phenom SEM’s we help our customers to stay competitive in a world where critical dimensions are continuously getting smaller. All Phenom desktop systems give direct access to the high-resolution and high-quality imaging and analysis required in a large variety of applications.

  • Phenom XL—The only desktop SEM with a 100mm x 100mm sample size and scanning area.
  • Phenom ProX—The ultimate all-in-one high resolution imaging and X-ray analysis system.
  • Phenom Pro—The high-end desktop SEM with superb imaging power for all markets and applications.
  • Delphi microscope—The world’s first fully integrated SEM and fluorescence microscope.
  • Automated Software Applications—Automated and market-specific software solutions enable Phenom users to extract maximum information from images made with the Phenom desktop SEM.
  • Optimized Sample Holders—Phenom sample holders are designed for optimizing the sample acceptance and loading speed and guarantee the fastest time to image in the market.

The Phenom electron microscope is the ideal tool for investigating any sample and analyzing the sample composition in a short span of time. With little sample preparation needed and the incredibly short time to image, the use of the Phenom desktop SEM improves the efficiency and effectiveness of quality control and production process within high level organizations all over the world.

The EDS-system for elemental analysis is fully embedded in the Phenom. Both hardware and software are fully integrated in one package.

Phenom is known for its ease-of-use, speed and reliability.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Phenom-World BV.

For more information on this source, please visit Phenom-World BV.


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