Fiberquant Analytical Services

Corporation Profile and History

The parent company of Fiberquant, Inc., SEMTEC Laboratories, Inc. was founded in 1977 by Edward F. Holdsworth. Then, as now, SEMTEC Laboratories utilizes electron beam analytical technology to solve a wide variety of chemical and metallurgical problems, including semiconductor materials characterization, failure analysis, metallurgical examinations and micro-analysis. SEMTEC’s philosophy is to provide the state-of-the-art in analytical techniques, a philosophy that has continued on in Fiberquant.

In 1979, Larry S. Pierce, after consulting for several years with SEMTEC in mineralogical matters, joined the firm after receiving his Ph.D. in geochemistry/mineralogy. In approximately 1980, SEMTEC began receiving requests for asbestos analysis. Since a mineralogist was already on staff, the ability to perform bulk sample analysis was easily attained. The first analyses were performed using the scanning electron microscope, but soon after, polarized light microscopy became the standard method. At nearly the same time, the capability of asbestos filter sample analysis, using phase contrast microscopy, was added.

In those days, the control and analysis of asbestos was in its infancy. The OSHA permissible exposure limit for asbestos in air was 2 fibers/cc, and people entered containment wearing 3M dust masks. As the concern over the effects of asbestos grew in Arizona, so did the number of asbestos samples to be analyzed at SEMTEC. With the passage of AHERA legislation, the number of asbestos analyses grew to the point that it was decided to split SEMTEC into two parts: asbestos and non-asbestos. The asbestos analysis arm of SEMTEC became Fiberquant, Inc. in 1988.

In those days, Fiberquant consisted of Larry S. Pierce, period. Reports were fill-in-the-blank forms. But that would soon change. Fiberquant analyzed samples during the heyday of the initial AHERA inspections, when every school was to be inspected. In one month, we received more samples than we could analyze in 3 months. We didn’t catch up until the AHERA deadline. Fortunately, we had already hired and trained a second PLM analyst, Stacy Doorn, who eventually worked in the TEM accreditation program at Research Triangle Institute (RTI). During the AHERA rush, JoAnn Lutz joined us as our office manager, and has continued in that capacity ever since. As the demand for asbestos analysis grew, the number of Fiberquant personnel was increased to handle the load. Dr. Pierce became the Lab Director and Quality Assurance Officer instead of the chief analyst. Reports had to become generated by computer, using a database and word processor. Eventually, a custom-designed laboratory information management system (LIMS) was implemented that electronically stores all sample log, analysis, client, job, etc. data collected in the lab.

The state-of-the-art analysis of asbestos in air began to change. Whereas much PCM data had already been gathered, it was becoming clear that PCM results did not always adequately characterize airborne exposures. Transmission electron microscope (TEM) analysis was needed to distinguish airborne asbestos fibers from interference fibers. TEM asbestos analysis requires a person trained in the operation of the instrument, but also a person trained in the use of electron diffraction to identify minerals, and a person trained in the use of an energy dispersive x-ray spectrometer (EDS). In a stroke of luck or coincidence, Dr. Pierce had already been trained in exactly those areas. He wrote his Ph.D. thesis on transmission electron microscopy of minerals, and had used the EDS extensively during his first 8 years at SEMTEC, thereby instantly making him one of few “natural” experts in TEM analysis in the country. Because of his background and expertise in the TEM and mineralogy, he has been designated a “Technical Expert” and on-site accreditation assessor for the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP), and has been visiting labs to investigate their personnel, training, procedures and records since 1989.

So it was natural that Fiberquant obtain a TEM. Our first TEM samples were done in late 1988. After becoming established in asbestos, Fiberquant took over all branches of environmental analysis from SEMTEC. Fiberquant obtained equipment to perform electromagnetic field (EMF) surveys and humidity and temperature equipment. In 1992, we purchased an atomic absorption spectrometer, which is used to analyze such metals as Pb, Cr, Cd, Zn, Cu, Ni, As and Se in samples down to the parts per million (ppm) or sometimes parts per billion (ppb) range. The instrument is applicable to a wide range of environmental Pb and industrial hygiene analyses.

Fiberquant and SEMTEC share a 10,000 square foot facility just three blocks south of Broadway Road in eastern Phoenix. Fiberquant is just 7 blocks from the Maricopa freeway, and only 10 minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor International airport, providing ready access from anywhere in Arizona, the United States or the world.

In 2008, the SEMTEC interest in Fiberquant was purchased by Dr. Pierce and Michael Breu.

Elwood Caldwell

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