Low-Z Element Analysis in Hard Materials
The study of fundamental mechanical and chemical properties of sintered cemented carbides and ceramics has become increasingly dependent on analytical techniques that probe into the microstructure and microchemistry of these cermets. Examples of the uses of the SEM, STEM, neutron diffraction, atom probe etc. are given in other papers in this conference which contribute to our understanding of the structure/property relationships. In contrast to pure metals and alloys (which have been the traditional research domain of metallurgists and materials scientists) two characteristics of cermets impose special requirements on micro-analysis: relatively fine grain sizes (e.g., several microns in carbides to sub-micron grains in ceramics and CVD refractory coatings; thin, intergranular binder films) which necessitate submicron resolution; and the common presence of low-Z elements such as carbon, nitrogen, boron, oxygen that comprise a major volume fraction of the microstructure. An adequate micro-analytical method should therefore be capable of clearly distinguishing these microstructural features as well as providing the corresponding microchemistry of the constituents. While the state of the art in electron microscope imaging by topographic or phase contrast is more than adequate in delineating microstructural features of cemented carbides, it is not yet quite as satisfactory in terms of microchemical analysis. The purpose of this paper is to take an overview of the existing technology in micro-analysis and, by comparison of particular capabilities and limitations on light element sensitivity and microchemical resolution, gain a useful perspective in the choice of analytical instrumentation most suited for studies of carbide, binder or CVD coating features in tool materials.
KeywordsEnergy Dispersive Spectrometry Hard Material Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy Auger Analysis Scan Auger Microprobe
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