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Cleanliness Analysis with a 2-Methods-in-1 Solution

Analyze your particles with optical microscopy and know their composition using LIBS at the same time


In this article, it is examined how an overall efficient and cost-effective cleanliness analysis workflow can be achieved with a 2-methods-in-1 materials analysis solution, combining optical microscopy and laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). Technical cleanliness is important for assuring product quality and reliability in the automotive and electronics industries. A 2-in-1 laser-based material analysis solution reduces the time for cleanliness analysis, as particle images and composition data are obtained simultaneously. Sources of particulate contamination can be eliminated more easily.


The performance and lifetime of products and their components in industries, such as automotive and transportation, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices, can be quite sensitive to contamination. Different types of foreign material within the product cause different kinds of damages; it depends on the particle’s physical properties (shape, hardness, etc.). Therefore, it is no surprise that these industries often have international and regional standards for technical cleanliness. For the automotive industry examples are the VDA 19 and ISO 16232 standards [1-3]. Each year the requirements for these cleanliness standards become stricter with always finer tolerances.

The workflow for cleanliness analysis can involve multiple instruments, from particle extraction to automated particle characterization and classification, depending on the user needs for particular products. Normally, optical imaging methods are standard for particle characterization [4-9]. To easily identify the source of contamination, rapid chemical/elemental analysis of the particles is a significant advantage. 

A 2-methods-in-1 solution, such as the DM6 M LIBS materials analysis solution from Leica Microsystems (refer to figure 1) [10,11], combines optical microscopy (visual analysis) with laser induced breakdown spectroscopy or LIBS (chemical analysis). The advantages of a 2-in-1 laser-based material analysis solution compared to other methods, such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS), for efficient cleanliness analysis are discussed.

What is LIBS?

LIBS is an acronym for Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy. The basic principles and operation of LIBS has already been described in a previous article [11].

Find and eliminate the source of contamination efficiently

For technical cleanliness, the ultimate goal is to find and eliminate the sources of contamination. A 2-methods-in-1 solution allows contamination sources to be identified with less time and effort, because the cleanliness analysis workflow is simplified.

Unlike analysis with SEM/EDS, when using a 2-in-1 solution there is:

  • No additional sample preparation;
  • No sample transfer from one device to another;
  • No need to relocate the region of interest on the filter and make system adjustments; and
  • No time lost waiting for a vacuum (the analysis is always done in air under atmospheric conditions)

Refer to figure 2 below for a diagram showing the differences in the cleanliness analysis workflow with a 2-in-1 solution versus SEM/EDS.

Cleanliness analysis workflow 2-in-1 solution versus optical + electron microscopy

2-methods-in-1 solution: Particle imaging and composition analysis

An example of visual and chemical analysis of particles on a filter using the DM6 M LIBS solution from Leica Microsystems is shown below in figure 3.

Efficient overall technical cleanliness workflow

For the overall cleanliness workflow, often multiple instruments from several suppliers are used to perform the particle extraction and analysis. A cleanliness solution for the entire workflow, from particle extraction to analysis, from a “single source” is more convenient.

Leica Microsystems and Pall have joined efforts to offer such a unique and complete cleanliness solution for the automotive and transportation industry [12]. The overall cleanliness workflow with washing cabinets from Pall and the DM6 M LIBS 2-in-1 solution from Leica Microsystems is seen below in figure 4.

The advantage of the complete solution is that the ultimate goals of cleanliness analysis are more easily achieved:

  • Determine a particle’s potential to cause damage and
  • Find and eliminate the sources of contamination for particles that pose a significant risk to the product’s performance and lifetime.


The advantages of a 2-methods-in-1 materials analysis solution, which combines optical microscopy and chemical analysis via laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), for an efficient cleanliness analysis were presented.

Cleanliness analysis is important for many types of products in multiple industries like transportation, electronics, and pharmaceuticals. Often the time and expense allocated for cleanliness analysis is limited, however obtaining reliable results and achieving product quality is always key.

An example of a 2-in-1 solution is the DM6 M LIBS materials analysis system. It offers accurate, rapid visual and chemical analysis in one instrument, eliminates sample preparation and transfer between devices, and allows the sample to remain at all times under ambient conditions during the analysis. A 2-in-1 solution allows the source of contamination for risky particles to be identified more easily compared to SEM/EDS methods. These advantages enable users to perform fast, precise, and more cost-effective cleanliness analysis.

Further Reading

  1. VDA (German Association of the Automotive Industry), QMC (Quality Management Center), Volume 19, Part 1, Inspection of Technical Cleanliness, Particulate Contamination of Functionally Relevant Automotive Components, 2nd Revised Edition, March 2015.
  2. VDA (German Association of the Automotive Industry), QMC (Quality Management Center), Volume 19, Part 2, Technical cleanliness in assembly, Environment, Logistics, Personnel and Assembly Equipment, 1st edition 2010.
  3. ISO/DIS 16232 Road Vehicles, Cleanliness of components and systems, International Organization for Standardization.
  4. N. Ecke, Free Webinar On-Demand: Basics in Component Cleanliness Analysis, Science Lab.
  5. Y. Holzapfel, J. DeRose, G. Kreck, M. Rochowicz, Cleanliness Analysis in Relation to Particulate Contamination: Microscopy based measurement systems for automated particle analysis, Science Lab.
  6. K. Scheffler, A. Schué, Clean Parts – More Reliable and Longer Lifetime Particle measurement with Leica Cleanliness Expert, Science Lab.
  7. K. Pingel, N. Ecke, Key Factors for Efficient Cleanliness Analysis, Science Lab.
  8. A. Schué, M. Härtel, Technical Cleanliness in the Production of Automotive Components: Residual Dirt Analysis in Real-world Applications, Science Lab.
  9. Cleanliness Expert Quality Assurance Software for Manufacturing, Product Page, Leica Microsystems.
  10. DM6 M LIBS Material Analysis Solution, Product Page, Leica Microsystems.
  11. J. DeRose, K. Scheffler, See the Structure with Microscopy - Know the Composition with Laser Spectroscopy: Rapid, Complete Materials Analysis with a 2-Methods-In-1 Solution.
  12. N. Ecke, C. Goasdoué, Free Webinar On-Demand: New Cleanliness Workflow from Leica and Pall, Science Lab, 2017, Leica Microsystems.

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