Raman asbestos fiber analysis

Raman asbestos fiber analysis conducted with the RAMANtouch, identifies asbestos and evaluates its potential risk. Thanks to its high spatial resolution, the RAMANtouch can detect even the smallest asbestos fibers. This level of precision ensures accurate assessment and effective management of asbestos-related risks.

White sign reading "Blue Asbestos Risk" warning of the danger associated with blue asbestos which can be found in the surroundings of the sign. The signs contains a danger icon in red and a photo of how the blue asbestos looks like. This asbestos could be subjected to a Raman Asbestos fiber analysis.
Warning sign for blue asbestos in the Karijini National Park, Australia.

Breathtaking Asbestos

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, gained widespread use throughout the 20th century due to its remarkable heat resistance and durability. Its versatility led to its incorporation into various industries, including construction, shipbuilding, and automotive manufacturing.

Asbestos challenge

Despite its utility, asbestos carries a significant health risk. When processed and handled, asbestos fibers can become airborne and easily inhaled.

Once lodged in the lungs, these microscopic fibers can cause severe health issues, including lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. Consequently, regulations have been implemented to limit its usage and mitigate exposure.

Efforts to remove asbestos from older structures to replace it with safer alternatives are ongoing. The challenge? Asbestos fibers are sometimes hidden within other materials, and similar to non-asbestos substances.

An aged house stands in a natural setting. The house has beige walls consisting of asbestos and a brown-tiled roof. There’s an attic window with green trimmings, and two white windows flank a worn wooden door. The ground is covered in gravel, and tall trees surround the house under a cloudy sky. A renovation team would be very well advised if they would carry out a Raman Asbestos fiber analysis.
Old house with asbestos tiles on the outside.

Therefore, specialized companies are commissioned to identify asbestos using elaborate analytical techniques such as Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) or X-ray diffraction (XRD).

While these methods are the standard choice for asbestos identification they need extensive sample preparation and highly trained staff. Besides, SEM and XRD have further limitations.

SEM provides element maps but lacks mineral identification, while XRD identifies minerals but doesn’t offer imaging. Yet, it is crucial to both identify the respective asbestos mineral and determine its fiber’s dimensions.

A technique that is able to bridge this gap is Raman microscopy, a somewhat overlooked method in asbestos analysis. With its ability to provide both substance identification and imaging capabilities, Raman microscopy presents a viable alternative to SEM and XRD.

Raman asbestos fiber analysis

This is where Bruker’s new acquisition, the RAMANtouch, comes into play. By providing high-resolution in Raman imaging, it is able to analyze and depict the smallest of fibers down to the nanometer range. Let’s demonstrate the capabilities of the RAMANtouch with an example.

The images shows a white, cube-shaped device with a blue, red and black logo in the shape of an N on its top. The middle of the device has three objectives for the microscopy analysis. The device is the RAMANtouch with which Raman Asbestos fiber analysis can be carried out.
The RAMANtouch Raman microscope

A sample was taken in a building in which fire-resistant material was used that could contain asbestos. The spectrum gathered of the sample was compared with a spectral library and revealed that the material is indeed made of chrysotile, a type of asbestos.

In addition to identifying the fiber it was also imaged, which is crucial for determining the contained fibers‘ dimensions. The importance of this lies in the criteria for a material to be classified as asbestos.

The material must exhibit a fibrous shape, with a length exceeding 5 µm, a diameter of 3 µm, and a length-to-width ratio of at least 3:1.

For the fiber dimension determination, the peak at 389 cm⁻¹, indicative of chrysotile, was used to generate the color-coded map seen below with each color representing the peak’s intensity at different locations in the sample.

The picture illustrates why asbestos is so dangerous. Even though the chrysotile depicted here is considered less hazardous than the thinner and longer crocidolite, the fibrous form with sharp ends is still evident.

Image consisting of two parts. The upper part shows two spectra one in black and one in red. The red spectra is the spectra of the measured sampled the black one is Crystotile. The seconf part of the image is a colorful Raman map in green and blue as well as red and violet. The red and violet part of the image is needle shaped and shows the asbestos fibers. The blue and green part is the background. This is how a Raman Asbestos fiber analysis looks like with the RAMANtouch.
Spectra and Raman imaging of a presumed asbestos fiber. The sample spectrum fits to Crystotile, a typical asbestos mineral.


The analysis with the RAMANtouch has clearly identified the material from the building as asbestos. With knowledge of the chemical composition and dimensions of the fibers, safe disposal of the material can now take place.

Detecting and quantifying harmful mineral particles is an important job for our devices. If you want to learn more about this, have a look at this blog article about coal mining dust: