Plastics Engineering, the magazine of the Society of Plastics Engineers, features an article in their July/August Issue on specialized test equipment for nanomaterials such as nanopolymers and carbon nanotubes. Noting that the demand for processes and equipment that can verify the composition, integrity, and performance of nanomaterials is increasing as marketable applications for nanotechnology increase, Pat Toensmeier surveys two important characterization tools--nanoindenters and atomic force microscopes (AFMs).
Indenters and AFMs are highly specialized tools for the characterization of both mechanical properties such as force and displacement as well as electrical properties though measurements of depth, material aggregation, material orientation, and conductivity. "As the use of nanopolymers grows and more companies become involved in their develoment and application, these and other pieces of equipment geared toward nanoscale testing of materials will become as common in R&D and quality-control labs as conventional tensile and hardness testers are now."
Toensmeier describes select equipment offerings of Agilent Technologies, Hysitron, Inc., and Veeco Instruments, Inc., as well as the approach of PerkinElmer, a plastics test equipment supplier who has begun combining several conventional tests to evaluate the properties of nanomaterials. Their "hypenated technique of thermogravimetric analysis-gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (TGA-GC/MS)" can be used to evaluate materials and coatings, and therefore indicate how close to spec a batch of nanomaterial is or is not.