The Unknown Material Identifier

Service Detail from M+P Labs

The Unknown Material Identifier-Image

Utilizing a host of chemical, thermal, microstructural, mechanical and electrical testing capabilities, M+P Labs can identify the composition of nearly any unknown metallic or non-metallic material to assist you identify the composition of materials, characterize material properties, assess differences between materials, troubleshoot, perform failure analysis and reverse engineer components.

These services are available to identify the composition of metals, super alloys, plastics, polymers, composites, ceramics, chemicals, fuels, lubricants, contaminants, particulates, filter debris, stains, reverse engineering components and more.


An unknown material is typically evaluated with a Scanning Electron Microscope equipped with an Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectrometer (SEM-EDS) first. Our SEM-EDS can provide detailed information about a material's chemical composition, microstructure and surface topography. An SEM-EDS qualitatively detects the presence of nearly every element in the periodic table of elements, from boron to uranium, on a microscopic scale. Specimens can be viewed at magnifications ranging from 10,000X - 100,000X. The SEM-EDS can be utilized in Secondary Electron Imaging (SEI) mode to provide high resolution photo documentation of the surface morphology of a material or feature, or Backscatter Electron Imaging (BEI) mode which combines information about surface topography and elemental composition by means of image contrast.

Electron Microprobe

In our Greenville, SC lab, we utilize a specialized SEM-EDS called an electron microprobe. Our electron microprobe performs semi-quantitative (instead of qualitative) chemical analysis of materials for more accurate chemical analysis. Our electron microprobe is one of the world's fastest. It is an SEM-EDS equipped with seven wavelength dispersive X-ray spectrometers (WDS). WDS detectors quickly differentiate between peaks for chemical elements that nearly overlap, ensuring rapid and accurate identification and quantification of the chemical elements present.

Click here for a free copy of our white paper:

Materials Analysis and Problem Solving with an Electron Microprobe

Additional Chemical Analysis Techniques

If the material is organic, FTIR analysis will be performed on the specimen. The resulting FTIR spectral pattern is the "chemical footprint" for that material. The spectrum is typically analyzed and matched with spectrum of known materials identified in an expansive FTIR library data base.

If the material is inorganic, it will then typically be analyzed by Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES). ICP-OES can accurately quantify the presence of nearly every element in the periodic table. This is routinely used for alloy identification.

M+P Labs offers a wide variety of analytical techniques to identify the composition of materials including:

  • Wet chemical analysis
  • Ion Chromatography (IC)
  • Carbon and sulfur analyzer
  • Thermal analysis
  • Microscopy
  • Coming soon … X-ray Fluorescence (XRF)

Additional Testing Capabilities Include:

· Electrical testing (insulating materials)

· Failure analysis

· Mechanical testing

· Metallographic preparation

· Metallurgical evaluation

· Microscopy & image analysis

· Scanning electron microscopy/electron microprobe analysis

· Specimen extraction & machining

· Thermal analysis

M+P Labs Quality Assurance:

The rigorous quality assurance requirements mandated by these industry quality standards: ISO 17025, Nadcap (aerospace and defense industry) and 10 CFR 50 Appendix B (nuclear utility industry) are applied to each and every job we perform, regardless of whether it requires conformance to any of these accreditations. The accuracy of the results produced by our staff of highly-experienced analysts allows our clients to make critical decisions based on precise and reliable information.

Contact Information:

For additional information or to discuss your materials testing needs, please contact us at (518) 382-0082, via email at, or visit us on the web at