From extraction to production, metallurgy and metallography are used to examine the microscopic mechanisms that affect the behaviour of metals, their composites and alloys. A well manufactured material can be made more resistant to virtually any source of potential failure, including corrosion, stress and creep - all of which are crucial considerations for the use of metals and alloys in manufacturing and engineering. To achieve this, however, metallurgists must contend with a host of complex factors, both naturally occurring and those resulting from engineering processes, which can alter the physical properties of metals and ultimately, their industrial applications.
Just as the macroscopic properties of metals are tested using instruments capable of measuring their hardness, tensile strength and compressive strength, analysis of a metal's microstructure is carried out using a combination of general and specialist microscopy techniques. With the right tools, metallurgists can confidently survey a host of metallurgical failure mechanisms including:
- Stress ruptures
- Cracking and crack propagation
- Hydrogen embrittlement
Prepared metallographic samples, are inspected using dedicated inverted microscopes that allow researchers to assess the grain size and phase of metals. Metallurgical studies, in contrast, can involve these as well as the use of specialized optical microscopes (transmitted and reflected light illumination), scanning electron microscopes and video measuring systems for select applications. When specialist software is added to this mix, researchers and control engineers can capture truly brilliant images and maximise the use of sample information.
Key techniques and instruments: stereomicroscopy, polarized light microscopy, transmitted and reflected light illumination, inverted microscopes, video measuring systems,