SEM study of multiphase materials

Multiphase materials are materials that consist of more than one crystallographic phase. Their crystallographic phase proportion and other characteristics such as grain size are closely linked to their physicochemical properties.  A very significant group of multiphase materials that are utilized in our everyday life is building materials, and more particularly cementitious materials. The primary ingredient of cement is clinker, a multiphase material that is produced by heating limestone and minerals in a kiln. As most of multiphase materials, their physicochemical properties correlate with crystallographic phase proportion, crystallographic phase composition, etc. rendering clinker characterization of vital importance. This information could be extracted utilizing Scanning Electron Microscopy.

Back-scattered electron image of OPC clinker at low magnification

Periclace dendroid structures in OPC clinker depicted in back-scattered electron image

More specifically, we use secondary electron imaging, back-scattered electron imaging, and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy in combination with image analysis techniques to improve upon previous characterization methodologies and obtain quantitative results. We are developing a novel, fast and accurate SEM-based clinker characterization technique, that could also be applied to other multiphase materials, by optimizing the sample preparation process, measurement parameters and image analysis/segmentation/quantification methods.

Back-scattered electron image of OPC clinker and quantitative EDS elemental mapping of silicon (a), calcium (b), iron (c), aluminum (d)

Back-scattered electron image of OPC clinker and Crystallographic phase mapping as a result of EDS elemental mapping combination

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