Paper products span such a range of construction and engineering variables, it is difficult to describe the range of samples related to paper and documents that we have encountered over the years.  Listed below are a few of the areas where microscopical and microchemical analyses have been shown to assist investigations involving paper products.


Paper Structure

The delicate nature of paper makes it difficult to study its three dimensional structure microscopically.  Using a cross section ion polisher, it is possible to preserve these fragile materials so that they can be studied with minimal distortion at high resolution.


Coatings and Finishes

Coatings are characterized in order to understand their composition, ensure that additives are present at proper concentrations, monitor layer thickness, and understand the interaction between the paper and the adhering layer. There are numerous ways of studying multiple layers with minimal disturbance to the delicate paper structure.  View the above image gallery to see the distribution of a wet strength coating on a paper towel and a coated paper in cross section.


Paper Fiber Identification

The identification of paper fibers is a specialized area.  Microtrace has experience in both the characterization of pulping methods and performing paper fiber furnish identifications.



Inclusions and contaminants have become increasingly common due to the additions of large percentages of post consumer content in many paper products,.  Microscopy can be used to identify these materials, whether they are discrete particles such as hairs and polymers, or residues and stains.  These unintentional additives have been used to show that materials collected from different locations shared a common origin.


Forensic and Civil Comparisons

Whether working on a patent infringement case or a project requiring the comparison of questioned and known documents, Microtrace has the expertise and experience to exploit and interpret subtle microscopical, chemical, and elemental differences.  Over the years, we have been involved in a variety of litigation ranging from forged documents to patent claims.


Historical Documents

Microtrace has been employed by historians, collectors, and curators to scientifically approach questions of authenticity, alteration, and provenance in the investigation of photographs, documents, and bindings.  Such analyses draw upon all of the components of a document including inks, adhesives, and coatings.  See our page on historical documents and collectibles for more information.


Related Standardized Methods: ASTM E444, E1658, E2195, E2285, E2286, E2287, E2288, E2289, E2290, E2388, E2390, E2494, E2710, E2711, E2765

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