Scanned Electron Microscope (SEM) Images of Building Materials

With the help of our donors and contributors including we are making available for viewing, a number of s
canned electron micrograph images for the purposes of discussing the flow of energy and mass through various building materials. Notice that materials we typically perceive to be smooth solid surfaces, under the microscope are actually textured and porous or semi porous. The porosity, density, specific heat and optical characteristics of a material or assemblies of materials will determine the flow of energy in the form of heat, sound and vibrations; and the flow of mass in the form of particulate, gases and liquids. As we say, when it comes to construction, "what is on the outside wants in, and what is on the inside wants out". The enclosure is the gauntlet controlling the flow.

Also note that many materials and systems used in construction are analogous to human anatomy and systems. For example in materials of construction there are analogies when looking at the skin and vapour barriers, wood and bone and insulation and hair. Likewise with systems we can find analogies with ventilation and respiration, the endocrine, nervous and circulatory system with radiant based heating/cooling systems. Be sure to view our which explores this concept in greater detail. The slides also contain higher resolution version of these images.

Note to viewers: These images and descriptions are obtained from third parties. We are showing the basic descriptions only. Greater details are discussed in the courses. Also we have included below some SEM images from other aspects of our educational programs to bring awareness to the similarities between the parts of the human body and materials humans use to stay warm and dry.

Grains of Sand

Closed Cell Polystyrene Foam

Nylon Geotextile Fabric

©Susumu Nishinaga/Science Photo Library

©Eye Of Science/Science Photo Library

©Science Photo Library

Coloured scanning electron micrograph of grains of sand. Sand is composed largely of quartz, and is produced by the weathering of quartz-containing rocks. Sand is
defined as rock particles 0.05-2 millimeters in diameter.
Magnification: x25 at 6x7cm size.

 

Coloured scanning electron micrograph of extruded closed cell polystyrene foam, whose cells (spaces seen here) are filled with air. As well and being an excellent thermal insulator also acts as a moisture barrier. Magnification: x150 when printed at 10 centimeters wide.
 

Mineral wool

Open Cell Polyurethane Foam

Expanded Polystyrene


 


 


 

© Achim Hering / GNU License

©Science Photo Library

©Eye Of Science/Science Photo Library

Mineral wool under microscope. Magnification: unknown

   

Concrete

Mortar

Gypsum

©Pascal Goetgheluck/Science Photo Library

©Eye Of Science/Science Photo Library

©Steve Gschmeissner/Science Photo Library

 

 

 

Mould (mold) on Wall Paper

Clay-based paint

Paper

©Eye Of Science/Science Photo Library

©Eye Of Science/Science Photo Library

©Susumu Nishinaga/Science Photo Library

 

 

Polymer Films Cotton Fabric Fly Ash

©Digital Inst./Veeco/Science Photo Library

©Science Photo Library

Coloured atomic force micrograph (AFM) of a multi-layer thin polymer film. The outer layers (granulated) are polyethylene, the layers within these are nylon and the inner layer is of unknown composition.  Magnification: x2200 at 6x6cm size
 

SEM image of fly ash which is used in portland cement concrete (PCC), soil and road base stabilization, flowable fills, grouts, structural fill and asphalt filler.
Magnification: x 2,000

Elm Wood

Soda Glass Aluminum Foil

©Power and Syred/Science Photo Library

© Dr Jeremy Burgess/Science Photo Library

© David Wall/FEI/fei.com / Rex Features

Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of a block of wood from an elm tree Magnification: x145 when printed at 10 centimeters tall
 

Scanning electron micrograph of the corner of a broken lump
of soda glass. Magnification: x450 at
8x10 inch size.

Scanning electron micrograph of aluminum foil. Magnification: x10000

Asbestos Cellulose Insulation Cellulose Insulation w/ PCM

©Carleton College/USGS

© Oak Ridge National Laboratory

© Oak Ridge National Laboratory

SEM image, Winchite-richterite asbestos, Libby, Montana

Scanning Electron Microscope Images of cellulose insulation
Magnification: x400

Fiberglass Insulation Fiberglass Insulation Roofing Material ©NRC-IRC (G.Chan, Operator) ©NRC-IRC (G.Chan, Operator) ©NRC-IRC (G.Chan, Operator)

Scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of fiberglass insulation.
Magnification: 8.9mm x30

Scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of fiberglass insulation.
Magnification: 8.9MM x1000
 

Scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of roofing materials
Magnification: 7.9MM x1000

Roofing Material Roofing Material  

If you have SEM images of building materials that you wish to share .

©NRC-IRC (G.Chan, Operator) ©NRC-IRC (G.Chan, Operator)  

Scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of roofing materials
Magnification: 3.6MM x1000
 

Scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of roofing materials
Magnification: 3.6MM x1000

 

Embedded PEX pipe Embedded PEX pipe Embedded PEX pipe

Light microscopy image of embedded PE-Xa pipe in concrete
Magnification:

Light microscopy image of embedded PE-Xa pipe in concrete
Magnification: x10

Light microscopy image of embedded PE-Xa pipe in concrete
Magnification: x100

Be sure to check out our upcoming on these materials and other topics treated to the building and health sciences including our new three advanced study program.

Can you see the similarities between materials used for outdoor clothing and materials of construction? Gore-Tex Goose Feather Raincoat Fabric

©Dr Jeremy Burgess/Science Photo Library

© Manfred Kage/Science Photo Library

©Eye of Science/Science Photo Library

Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of a goose feather. The central shaft, or rachis runs from upper right to lower left. Rows of filaments, known as barbs, project from either side of the rachis. Along the length of each barb are smaller filaments, known as barbules. The closely packed
barbules insulate the bird. Magnification: x17 when printed
at 10 centimeters tall.

 

Can you see the similarities between human physiology and materials of construction?

Bone Tissue Human Hair Human Skin

©Steve Gschmeissner/Science Photo Library

©Power and Syred/Science Photo Library

©Eye of Science/Science Photo Library

 

 


 

We are currently looking for coloured SEM images of caulking and sealant compounds, roofing and siding materials and floor finishes. If you have such images and wish to donate them or make them available for educational purposes

Three of our favourite things - can you tell which we've had the longest?
(images below are linked to their respective book stores) Plus the ASHRAE Fundamentals Handbook Chapters 24,25,26 and 27 )      

Building Materials Data Base

   

more to come

more to come

NRC-IRC with ASHRAE

   

A Thermal and Moisture Transport Property Database for Common Building and Insulating Materials, Final Report from ASHRAE Research Project 1018-RP, 2002

   

 

 

Suggested resources:
Building Enclosures, , , , , and