Morphological imaging applies the technique of automated static image analysis to provide a complete, detailed description of the morphological properties of particulate materials. By combining particle size measurements, such as length and width, with particle shape assessments, such as circularity and convexity, morphological imaging fully characterizes both spherical and irregularly-shaped particles. This enables deeper understanding of a sample’s characteristics through precise detection of agglomerates, foreign particles and other anomalous materials. It also delivers the data required to cross-validate other particle sizing methods which apply an equivalent-sphere approach to reporting particle size distributions. 

Morphological imaging precisely characterizes individual particles within pre-dispersed samples of dry powders, wet suspensions, and particulates deposited on filters. Statistically representative distributions are constructed by rapidly and automatically analyzing hundreds of thousands of particles per measurement, providing valuable information on the whole sample. 

Combining static imaging with Raman spectroscopy in a technique known as Morphologically-directed Raman spectroscopy (MDRS) further allows the chemical identity of the particles to be determined, delivering component-specific microstructural insight. Raman spectroscopy is well-recognised across industry and academia as providing the high level of chemical specificity required to identify components in a mixture, even to the degree of differentiating alternative forms of the same compound. 

What answers can automated static imaging provide? 

Single particles or agglomerates? 

Particulate samples can be prone to agglomeration which may not be easily detected by other particle sizing techniques. Analysis of individual particles in the dispersion in terms of their outline shape enables you to determine if, and to what extent, agglomerates are present. 

Regular or elongated? 

Milling can change particle shape and size, which affects a material’s processing behavior and final properties. By measuring shape parameters such as elongation or circularity, the overall sample form is monitored and process changes can be made if required. 

Rough or smooth? 

Powder flow and abrasive powder effectiveness are both influenced by particle surface texture. Particle shape parameters help assess if a powder is likely to stick in a hopper or if an abrasive powder has become worn. 

Light or dark? 

Mineral samples often contain a mixture of different particle types. Using greyscale images to measure physical properties such as the amount of light passing through or being reflected from the particle’s surface helps to differentiate between these particles. 

Typical application areas for image analysis include: 

Pharmaceutical Development

Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) and excipient particle size and shape are critical material attributes which must be understood and controlled during formulation development and process scale-up for both innovator and generic products. Malvern Panalytical Morphologi systems deliver the data required to achieve this, and can also determine the component-specific API particle size required to establish in vitro bioequivalence for generics, minimizing associated clinical study costs. 

Spray Drying 

Spray drying techniques are employed across a range of manufacturing industries to produce granules having the size and shape to deliver the required fluidity. Malvern Panalytical Morphologi systems provide statistically- relevant data to support the optimization of processes and to robustly deliver to these expectations. 

Energy storage/Batteries 

Morphological descriptions can be used to correlate electrode powder attributes with battery performance, to support product development and ensure final product quality. Malvern Panalytical Morphologi systems also provide information on the chemical composition and structure of electrode material properties which are fundamental to battery performance. 

Powder Metallurgy 

Metal powder properties such as particle size and shape are critical for powder metallurgy processes as they impact final component quality and performance. Malvern Panalytical Morphologi systems are used by metal powder producers and component manufacturers to ensure an optimum, consistent and traceable powder supply, mitigating the risk of costly part failure. 

Forensics 

Forensic analysis requires physical and chemical information to interpret evidence. The particle size, shape and chemical information delivered by Malvern Panalytical Morphologi systems enables contaminant identification, detection of counterfeit pharmaceuticals or illicit drugs, and examination of soils and other residues from crime scenes, to support the investigative process. 

Building materials

Cement is a complex mixture of minerals and additives, the component-specific particle properties of which affect final product performance. Malvern Panalytical Morphologi systems allow the particle size and shape of individual components in a cement blend to be fully characterized and compared between batches or products, to aid product development and solve production problems. 

Mining and Minerals 

The morphology of geological deposits helps trace the extent of natural disasters and predict the impact of future environmental events. Particle properties also determine the effectiveness of abrasive minerals for use in cutting and polishing tools. Malvern Panalytical Morphologi systems automatically generate the statistically relevant, component-specific particle data required to meet these challenges.