This article provides a general introduction of materials characterization and describes the principles and applications of a limited number of techniques that are most commonly used to characterize the composition and structure of metals used in engineering systems. It briefly describes the classification of materials characterization methods including, bulk elemental characterization, bulk structural characterization, microstructural characterization, and surface characterization. Further, the article reviews the selection of materials characterization methods most commonly used with metals.
The overall chemical composition of metals and alloys is most commonly determined by X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and optical emission spectroscopy (OES), and combustion and inert gas fusion analysis. This article provides information on the capabilities, uses, detection threshold and precision methods, and sample requirements. The amount of material that needs to be sampled, operating principles, and limitations of the stated methods are also discussed.