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Perform particle analysis on microscopy images

July 16, 2020

Particle analysis is used by microscopists across many fields of industry and research ranging from quality control of structured materials (metal, alloys, etc.) to characterization of nano-structure assemblies.
Mountains® software provides several feature detection methods, a range of graphical representations and classification tools. Mathieu Cognard, recently appointed product manager for SPM applications at Digital Surf, gives us a guided tour.


The Particle analysis study is used to detect, quantify and classify particles, pores, grains, and other image features (of any shape and size) that have boundaries.

Above. View of the Particle analysis study in Mountains®. On the left, detected particles can be visualized in color-coded classes. On the right, parameters for the whole surface and for individual particles are displayed.

Preparing the surface before detection

First of all, it’s important to know a little bit about your surface and decide which features you want to detect (particles, pores etc.) This will help you choose the right detection method.
Leveling the surface is also necessary in order to obtain a flat and horizontal background, especially if you are going to use the Threshold detection method. Remove noise and filter the surface if necessary.

Access to the tools and display options

The Particle analysis tools can be found in the Studies tab (see below). Clicking on the icon will produce a new Study in the Document.


By default, the Table of Results is shown below the image of the detected layer. However, it can also be displayed to the right of the panel to improve visualization (see image above). Just right-click on the table and select Show results on the right side. To save this setting as default, you can press Alt+S. Press F11 for full screen-mode.


Particle detection

Several different methods for detecting particles are available in Mountains®. Each method will detect different types of features automatically and generate specific parameters.

Threshold detection

Detect particles (or pores) that stand out clearly on a flat background, using one or two thresholds. Surface roughness must be smaller than the height of the particles (or smaller than the depth of the pores).

Watershed detection

Detect contiguous dale or hill motifs using watershed segmentation as defined in ISO25178-2 and fully segment the surface. The algorithm calculates watersheds that divide or partition hill or dale motifs and locates their peaks and pits.

Edge detection

Detect features on an uneven background, using watershed segmentation after the application of an edge detection filter. This method can also be used if the features are connected or not clearly separated. It also works for detecting grain boundaries of polished metal or ceramic surfaces.

Particle classification

Mountains® also offers a powerful tool for particle classification. This tool can create several classes defined by one or several criteria. Particles can be classified according to their specific characteristics.

Above. Particles can be classified based on multiple criteria.

Watch the webinar

Want to know more? Our in-depth webinar on particle analysis is available on demand: