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Press Releases at LATesting

Category News
Publish Date 4/6/2009
Author Ben Sublasky
Title LA Testing Combustible By-Product Analysis Providing an Invaluable Service
Introduction Proper methodology, techniques and instrumentation are crucial for accurate results.

The California wildfire tribulations are well-chronicled and have been a problem for a number of years.  Aside from the obvious toxic chemical problems that are prevalent due to residual effects of the fires, particulate matter is also of significant concern as the ‘breathing in’ of the particulate matter has negative health effects.


LA Testing in Pasadena recently implemented Combustible By-Product analysis to better assist the local community.  Combustion By-Product Analysis at LA Testing includes:


  • Black Carbon/Soot – Sub-micron particles formed through uncontrolled combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel and biomass. In addition, it is emitted from manmade or naturally occurring soot. This analysis is performed using a Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) and/or Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) for particle morphology coupled with Electron Dispersive X-ray (EDX) for elemental composition.


  • Carbonized Material – Characterized as char, ash, graphite, coke and coal. This analysis is performed using polarized light microscopy (PLM) or epi-reflected microscopy (RLM).


  • Carbon Black (Furnace, Lamp, Acetylene Black) – A manufactured spherical, carbon material with sizes below 1 micron. Typical uses include paint pigmentation, copier toner and automobile tires. Analysis for carbon black requires the use of TEM with EDXA.

Additional analysis is necessary when attempting to determine the "source" or "point of origin" of carbonized material.  Accelerant testing can be performed by Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometry (FTIR), Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) and High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). 


It is important to differentiate between laboratories, especially when the analysis is for Carbon Black and Soot, as the analysis of nano-particles with PLM alone is often inconclusive and typically found to be legally indefensible. Inexpensive testing by PLM is limited at best and should not be the only instrument utilized for the analysis of wildfire residue but rather as the beginning phase of an extensive process.


For more information on SEM Services visit or call (800)303-0047 and ask for Jerry Drapala or Derrick Tanner. 

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