Atomic Echo

Failure Analysis of Materials

Failure Analysis of Materials

In our failure analysis lab, we investigate a material failure’s background or history of a sample, to determine why a particular failure occurred.  A product failure may include premature breakage, discoloration or even an unexpected odor. It is useful to know if this failure is a new, unique occurrence or if it has been an ongoing issue. The investigation can involve analyzing the sample as it currently exists and extrapolating from that data what may have caused the failure. A sample of the “good” vs. “bad” product may also be useful for comparison purposes.

Physical failures (e.g. poor adhesion, pull strength, fractures, discolorations) are investigated using surface analysis, materials characterization and metallurgical analysis techniques. The scenario and sample type impact which analytical technique can be used.


Atomic Echo Labs has a variety of instrumentation in our failure analysis labs, such as Optical Microscopy, SEM/EDS, FTIR, Raman, TOF-SIMS, XPS, and Auger. We also work with experts in metallurgical failure analysis and fracture analysis to better understand the mechanics of the fracture, failure modes and origins .

Failure analysis – materials engineer at Atomic Echo Labs Laboratories

Environmental chambers are available for failure analysis, to test the effects of UV, heat and humidity on materials and products. Additionally, to better understand the problem, failure conditions can be re-created in the laboratory. Both customized analyses and application of established standards such as ASTM methods may also be employed.

For adhesion and bonding failures, FTIR, TOF-SIMS, XPS and Auger are important techniques that provide information about the molecular and/or elemental species present at the failure site. In some instances, the presence of molecular contaminants at delaminated surfaces can indicate poor contact between the bonded surfaces. Imaging delaminated surfaces can also indicate the failure mechanism (e.g. cohesive or adhesive).

Failure Analysis Examples

Atomic Echo Labs has successfully determined the cause of failure due to:

  • Fatigue and other slow crack growth mechanisms
  • Brittle and ductile overload failures
  • Stress corrosion and hydrogen embrittlement failures
  • Corrosion/oxidation problems
  • Contamination problems
  • Wear failures
  • Adhesion and bonding problems
  • Discoloration
  • Heat treatment problems
  • Design/stress related failures
  • Plating problems

Other failure analysis scenarios may involve analyzing unknown materials or investigating the unexpected appearance of a surface, due to particles, roughening or discoloration. Atomic Echo Labs failure analysis lab scientists have investigated:

  • Plastics
  • Adhesives
  • Packaging
  • Metals/alloys
  • Coatings/paints
  • Composites
  • Laminates

Failure analysis & materials testing of metal components, plastics or composite materials has applications across a variety of industries, including aircraft, aerospace, transportation, construction, consumer products, electronics, hostile service environments, energy production, structural components and medical devices. Materials selection based on your engineering specifications is one of Atomic Echo Labs many specialties.  The potential complexity of a failure analysis investigation means that Atomic Echo Labs expertise in experimental design, instrument operation and data interpretation all increase the likely chances of success.

Atomic Echo