Contamination Analysis of Powders and Particles

Analysis of particulate contamination issues by various methods including microscope, SEM, FTIR, Raman spectroscopy

Identification of particulate contaminants is the first step in the resolution of potentially critical contamination problems which might occur unexpectedly at multiple points along the supply chain for many industries. Once the source is known, however, action can be taken to control and prevent future contamination. 

Identification of particulate contaminants requires isolation of the particulate matter followed by comprehensive analysis and identification.

Our experts apply their knowledge and experience to locate the source of the contaminant and eliminate it, or find the source of the problem in the supply chain. We adopt a strategic approach to identify contaminants which includes expertise in sampling and sample preparation, visual / physical examination, chemical identification and cause analysis.

Using microscopy techniques, contaminant particles are imaged and compared to the main population by our experts. Following an initial assessment, analysis can be performed using Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS, EDX, or XEDS) on isolated particles using Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) or vibrational spectroscopy (infra-red or Raman), as appropriate. When the size or shape of the contaminating particles is the issue, image analysis is used to assess and quantify the degree of contamination so that comparisons with other batches or a retained standard can be made.

Examples of contamination in powders

  • Extraneous metal particles from, for instance, pipes, pumps and vessels
  • Black speck contamination within a white powder product, and highly coloured material within a more lightly coloured product
  • Particles of quite different particle size and/or shape to the bulk of the material

Examples of particulate contaminant problems we have helped to resolve

  • Metal abrasion and corrosion
  • Teflon particles from filters, joints or gaskets
  • Glass fragments caused by delamination or breakage
  • Biological matter of microbiological origin
  • Charred material
  • Cellulose and synthetic fibres
  • Silicone, rubber or other polymeric particles

Standardized services

We offer fast standardized services for identification and characterization of particulate contaminants and impurities

  • Microscopy: Light Microscopy and SEM /EDX, Light- and ATR-FTIR Microscopy, optical, confocal and Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM)
  • Molecular Spectroscopy: Infra-red and RAMAN Spectroscopy
  • Surface analysis: X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass  Spectrometry (SSIMS)
  • Thermal analysis e.g. Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC)

Whether your contamination is embedded in a solid, gel or liquid, is present in a homogeneous or heterogeneous environment, is of organic or inorganic nature or appears as fibres or crystallites, our experts apply the most suitable preparation method for your samples. 

Sampling of particles is rarely straightforward and cross-contamination has to be avoided. We can advise on proper sample collection and can suggest appropriate sample packing or can provide the proper packaging material.  

Alternatively, our experts can visit your site and take care of sample collection and transport. 

Our multidisciplinary team of experts carefully document the visual appearance of foreign particulate matter.  We utilise a wide range of techniques including light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy which are powerful tools to study the shape, morphology, size and size distribution allowing us to observe and record minute details.
Our scientists deploy microscope based techniques such as SEM with EDX which can provide valuable elemental information about the particulate chemical composition. We also apply spectroscopy techniques such as infra-red (ATR-FTIR), FTIR Imaging, Raman imaging and confocal Raman microscopy and supporting techniques such as TDS-GC/MS, GC/MS, LC/MS, NMR, MALDI-MS to study unknown particulate matter.

We have the capability to fully review analytical results and assess the findings of analytical studies focused on contamination incidents associated with production, engineering and the supply chain. We can provide the guidance you need to define corrective and preventive measures.

Our broad experience in many industries such as the pharmaceutical, medical device, polymer and coating sectors gives us the necessary know-how to effectively identify unknown contaminants. We provide comprehensive characterization and identification of particulate contaminates, ensuring that a highly sensitive and stressful process is dealt with in a streamlined and meaningful manner.


Contamination Related Service:

Need help or have a question? +1 800 967 5352

Need help or have a question?

+1 800 967 5352
+44 161 721 5247
+31 88 126 8888
+65 6805 4800
0800 5855888
+49 711 27311 152
+41 61 686 4800
01 800 5468 3783
+52 55 5091 2150
+55 11 2322 8033
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