AFM Analysis of Titanium Grain Structure Changes Caused by Failure

We use the Tosca 400 atomic force microscope (AFM) as a quality control tool to check for differences in titanium (Ti) metal grain structure before and after failure. Ti metal was subjected to strained metal failure by tensile pulling and the metal surface was examined for changes in grain structure, surface roughness and topography. Clear differences were found before (unstrained, native Ti metal) and after failure (strained to fracture Ti metal) to provide a unique way to characterize failure for correlating to functional properties of Ti metal. This approach provides insight into metal composition and to check for impurities/contaminants which can contribute to failure.


Surface characterization of metals subjected or caused to fail typically involves optical microscopy, large scale digital imaging or some form of elemental and/or scanning electron microscope (SEM) analysis. Other testing methods like micro/nano-indentation, tensile testing and bending protocols can provide other properties like hardness, Young’s modulus, elasticity and fracture resistance. However surface texture, grain structure, topography and roughness (and differences therein) are also important identifiers of metal failure. 

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