BACKGROUND: In transmission and scanning electron microscopy imaging, the ability to obtain sufficient contrast between the components of a blend when they are both of a similar chemical structure still remains problematic. This paper investigates the domain morphology of a polymer blend containing two polyamides, nylon 6 and the semi-aromatic polyamide poly(m-xylene adipamide) (MXD6), using scanning electron microscopy in backscattered electron imaging mode. The efficiency of three staining agents, ruthenium tetroxide, phosphotungstic acid and silver sulfide, in obtaining optimum phase contrast between the two polymers is discussed. RESULTS: The use of silver sulfide as a staining agent was found to be a fast and reliable approach which required basic sample preparation and provided excellent compositional contrast between the phases present in the nylon 6/MXD6 blends compared to the other staining agents. CONCLUSIONS: The technique described in this paper is believed to be a novel and versatile method that has the potential to further improve the ability to study complex polymer blends where one polymer contains an aromatic ring.
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