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What Is Microanalysis?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Leigh
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2014
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Microanalysis is a technique used by scientists to look at the composition of substances and the way they perform under different conditions. The substances being studied are broken down into very small pieces utilizing different analytical methods including micromilling, microprobing, microcalorimetry, and thermogravimetric analysis. This type of analysis helps scientists analyze elements in larger materials, test for homogeneity, and better understand the reactions of a substance when placed in various conditions. These methods of scientific testing are performed in laboratories with specialized equipment and safety measures in place.

Scientists sometimes perform microanalysis to find out which elements a substance is composed of. For example, a rock can be composed of the elements carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen. Microanalysis can confirm how much of each element the rock contains. This is done to substances that take place naturally, or for those that are scientifically created in a laboratory setting.

In some cases, microanalysis can determine the type and amount of the variations of elements known as isotopes, which have different numbers of neutrons in them. Chemical isotopes can be distinguished through microanalysis to provide further information about the composition of a substance. This knowledge can help scientists predict the behavior of a substance when placed in conditions that have been previously experimented upon.

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There are many methods of microanalysis utilized by scientists to gather information. Electron probe microanalysis uses beams of electrons to create an x-ray of a small piece of the material. This can also be done using protons, neutron, ions, or x-rays to find different types of information. The tools utilized in microanalysis help analyze the information that is transmitted into quantified data that can be used to create an accurate map of the substance being studied. Since very small pieces of a material work best in analysis, the substances are often micromilled prior to analysis so that they are small particles to begin with.

Some experimentation is done to find out how a substance will react when placed under extreme temperatures of pressures. Doing this provides data that is useful for those in manufacturing or testing of the safety of products. Once microanalysis is performed, the properties of a substance are better understood, which enables the substance to be used in various capacities, such as technology or production. The heat of a reaction can also be found through microanalysis when two liquids are placed in a safe setting and the reaction is carefully measured.

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