Polymers represent a wide range of materials including raw materials, finished products, elastomers, coatings, and paints.   Polymers samples are submitted to Microtrace for a variety of goals including:

  • Polymer identification
  • Characterization of polymer properties (e.g., refractive index, birefringence, thermal properties, color, etc.)
  • Identification of contaminants and defects
  • Polymer microstructure (TEM imaging of polymer microstructure)
  • Distribution of phases in polymer blends (light microscopy, SEM, or TEM)
  • Failure determination
  • Multi-layer structure micro-characterization
  • Colorant identification
  • Filler and extender identification
  • Additive identification

Clients range from attorneys in civil investigations to forensic laboratories and public defenders to polymer and fiber manufacturers to packaging companies creating complex multilayered films to paint manufacturers.  Although we maintain confidentiality agreements with these companies, our experience with broad ranges of products and raw materials gives us a unique perspective in addressing a variety of aspects related to polymer microscopy and polymer chemistry.

Sample Preparation

Microtrace maintains a wide variety of analytical methods to isolate defects and prepare polymer samples for micro-analytical characterizations ranging from microtomy and ultramicrotomy to cross section ion polishing, which provides a gentle way to section intricate, multi-layered films without disturbing the original structure.


The identification and characterization of polymers, their fillers, and their colorants is approached using an analytical scheme appropriate to the particular question being addressed.  Analytical methods available in house range from polarized light microscopy (to study optical properties and orientation) to high resolution electron microscopy (SEM and TEM), elemental analysis by EDS and XRF, chemical analysis by Raman and infrared microspectroscopy, and pyrolysis-GC-MS for more detailed characterizations of polymer chemistry and additives.

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