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Materials: Characterization

Materials Characterization

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Although much of our project work is geoscience-based, our team has been involved in the analysis of a diverse range of man-made materials including both modern and historic ceramics, cements and concrete, airborne particulates, and even ancient Egyptian eye makeup (kohls). 

Sample size is rarely an issue and in many of these projects, sample sizes are vanishingly small (sometimes, just a few dust-sized grains).


Analysis can range from routine scanning electron microscopy to determine the size, shape, and texture through to full high-resolution automated mineralogy analysis.

Contact us to find out how we can assist in your workflows and studies.

Left: Automated mineralogy image of filtered solids and precipitates. The distribution of particles and precipitates is likely a consequence of two distinct fluid types. Precipitates can be related to produced water compositions or even the result of additives used to prevent precipitation of other minerals (e.g. to prevent silica or sulphate precipitation).  

Materials: Black Mass

Black Mass

With the progressive push towards renewable energy and resources, spent batteries are an increasingly significant waste product. The batteries are crushed and ground to a fine black powder (referred to as "black mass"). Although this is a resource for valuable metals including Co, Ni, Li, Cu and Mn, its value as a commodity is depressed due to its complexity; black mass frequently contains a wide range of electrolyte compositions, associated metals, and contaminants even within a single sample.

Simple bulk chemical analysis is insufficient to fully characterize the material and hence automated mineralogy is a key method for understanding the nature and composition of the black mass, and the recovery potential of the metals contained. Outputs can aid in the optimization of almost every aspect of recovery and waste minimization including, grinding, flotation, hydrometallurgical, and pyrometallurgical processes.

Left: Automated mineralogy images of two different samples of black mass showing diversity of particle types including electrode materials and Cu foils. The upper example is dominated by a specific electrode chemistry (NMC811) whereas the lower example is more varied and contains mainly Co-rich (LCO) electrode fragments.

Materials: Other


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Other application areas are diverse and include the characterization of concrete and cement in investigative studies (e.g. the identification of deleterious additives such as sulphides and micas), validation of shipped versus received mineral products and concentrates, and investigating the integrity of fuel cell electrodes.

These studies are typically focused on specific problems and include bespoke workflows to minimize uncertainties and deliver a conclusive result. Where appropriate technologies are not available in-house, we draw in expertise from our wider network. 

Left: Concrete where a micaceous aggregate has been used. Note the abundant elongate muscovite (pale brown) and biotite (red-brown) flakes.

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