Investigators looking at the wing flap are likely to start by putting thin slices of metal under a high-powered microscope, to see subtle clues in the metal's crystal structure about how it deformed on impact, said Hans Weber, president of TECOP International, an aerospace technology consulting firm based in San Diego, California.
Later, investigators would probably clean the piece and "do a full physical examination, using ultrasonic analysis before they open it up to see if there's any internal damage," Weber said. "That might take quite awhile. A month or months."
John Goglia, a former board member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, told Reuters: "The real work is yet to begin".
"They will identify everything they can from the metal: damage, barnacles, witness marks on the metal. They're going to look at the brackets (that held the flaperon in place) to see how they broke. From that they can tell the direction and attitude of the airplane when it hit. There's a lot to be told from the metal."
However, experts said the cause of the disaster may remain beyond the reach of investigators until other debris or data and cockpit voice recorders are recovered.
"A wing's moving surfaces give you far fewer clues than bigger structures like the rudder, for example. As a single piece of evidence, it is likely to reveal quite little other than it comes from MH370," said a former investigator who has participated in several international probes of crashes at sea.
The examination of the part is being carried out under the direction of a judge at an aeronautical test facility run by the French military at Balma, a suburb of the southwestern city of Toulouse, and witnessed by Malaysian and other officials.
Officials from the United States, Australia, China, Britain and Singapore as well as manufacturer Boeing were also on hand. Boeing said it was providing technical expertise.
Flight MH370 disappeared on March 8 last year while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, about 2,300 miles from Reunion.
The Boeing 777 was minutes into its scheduled flight when it disappeared from civil radar. Investigators believe that someone may have deliberately switched off the aircraft's transponder, diverted it thousands of miles off course, and deliberately crashed into the ocean off Australia.
A $90 million hunt along a rugged 60,000 sq km patch of sea floor 1,000 miles west of the Australian city of Perth has yielded nothing. The search has been extended to another 60,000 sq km (23,000 sq miles) and Malaysian and Australian authorities say this will cover 95 percent of MH370's flight path.
- CNBC.com contributed to this story