What Goes Into the Best Inert Coatings? Outstanding Material Science!

January 14 2015


Materials characterization capabilities of SilcoTek®

Materials characterization capabilities serve an essential role at SilcoTek® to develop new inert coating products, and an equally essential role in assisting customers with scale up as well as process troubleshooting. Various characterization techniques enable SilcoTek’s scientists to study materials, analyze surface bonding mechanisms, and develop a deep understanding of the surface protection properties. Meanwhile, SilcoTek technicians use characterization tools in their daily QA/QC process to make sure all coatings meet SilcoTek’s quality standards and satisfy our customer’s needs. Last but not least, it is not uncommon for SilcoTek to receive customer requests to provide characterization help with their specific substrates or coated parts.

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In addition to the in-house characterization capabilities, SilcoTek also enjoys convenient access to a wide variety of characterization techniques at the Pennsylvania State University (PSU), thanks to our physical proximity to the University’s main campus, and an established academic/industry relationship between PSU and SilcoTek. As a result, SilcoTek’s R&D scientists are certified users of many characterization instruments located at the Materials Characterization Lab (MCL) at Penn State University.

X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) Analyzer


In order to avoid process disruptions caused by incompatible substrates, SilcoTek uses a Thermo Scientific X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, a non-destructive elemental analysis tool, to identify any unfamiliar incoming metal substrates.




Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) uses a broad band infrared radiation as the excitation source to probe molecular structures of various chemical species in gas, liquid or solid state.  The FTIR technique is used by SilcoTek’s technicians on a regular basis to perform the QA/QC duties, as well as by SilcoTek’s scientists to assist in their R&D projects.

F20 Thin-film Analyzer


SilcoTek’s F20 thin-film analyzer (manufactured by Filmetrics Inc.) is a bench top tool that can be configured to measure thin film thicknesses (30Å to 350 mm), optical constants (n and k: refractive index and extinction coefficient) and transmittance. It is primarily used by SilcoTek as a quick, accurate and non-destructive way to measure surface thicknesses.

Surface contact angle measurement

Contact angle is the angle that a drop of liquid makes to its (usually solid phase) contacting surface. It is measured through the droplet, with the angle formed between the solid surface and the liquid meniscus near the line of contact. The contact angle gives an indication of the wettability of a surface to a liquid (usually water), and the value of the contact angle can vary with the volume of the liquid drop.


SilcoTek scientists rely heavily on the contact angle measurement in their research of hydrophobic and superhydrophobic surface development, where properly designed surface topography can bring out the extreme water-repellent property in a surface.

Contact angle measurement benefit to SilcoTek’s customers: ensure anticipated surface hydrophobicity/hydrophilicity as required by application; confirm successful surface bonding.

Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS)

Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) is a mostly non-destructive and very useful tool to study and evaluate the performance of protective coatings on metal substrates. The measurement gives information such as resistance, capacitance, double layer capacitance and Faradaic impedance which are related to the performance and failure process of coatings.

EIS_Bode_Plot EIS benefit to SilcoTek’s customers: provide corrosion performance evaluation of surfaces; help analyze failure mechanisms.


Read More About How SilcoTek Scientists Improve Coatings

This blog posting highlights a range of materials characterization techniques available to SilcoTek. It aims to help our customers understand the scope and capability of SilcoTek’s R&D activities, as well as to demonstrate how different tools can be used to facilitate SilcoTek in the development of more innovative solutions, to help our customers solve various application challenges. Easy availability of these tools also allows SilcoTek’s manufacturing team to keep a tight quality control on our inert coating products, thereby providing consistent and reliable products to all our customers.