What is it made of? What’s causing it to perform or react a certain way? What impurities or contaminants could be harmful or cause a regulatory issue? Is it safe? Is it made from high-quality materials? Is another manufacturer infringing on my patent?
These are the kinds of questions manufacturers want answered through chemical analysis. From shampoos and fabrics to medical devices and stereo components, every chemical analysis is a problem-solving journey, and every problem we encounter is a chemistry problem.
While the precise process and instrumentation will vary from client to client and product to product, these are the basic steps involved in just about every chemical analysis.
Separate a Product into Its Smallest Parts
When we look at chemical composition, we start by thinking about how we can find answers to the client’s questions through chemical separation.
For example, a recent chemical analysis involved aluminum flakes that go into car paint to make it sparkle. The flakes are pure aluminum but require additives to keep them from sticking together. The problem was that the flakes were too sticky or gummy at times.
Instead of separating or quantifying everything in the mixture, we had to assess what chemicals within the mixture were most important. In other words, we focus on the chemistry that could be making the flakes sticky or gummy and investigate those parts separately.
In this case, we were dealing with a performance problem. If the product doesn’t react the right way, people won’t want to use it. In other cases, we could be looking for a contaminant that could cause a regulatory problem. Each case is unique.
Categorize and Chart the Smaller Parts
The next step in chemical composition analysis involves creating a flow chart of sorts that separates parts into categories.
For example, we might try to separate organic chemicals from inorganic chemicals, liquids from solids, volatiles from non-volatiles, etc. We create this tree of progressively smaller categories and drill down into the details.
As with the previous step, we don’t have to go down every branch of the tree, which would be inefficient and unnecessarily time-consuming and costly. We focus only on those parts that are relevant to the purpose of the chemical analysis.
Hypothesis and Testing
Now, we get into the science of chemical analysis. We form a hypothesis, or multiple hypotheses, and test.
A candle manufacturer recently came to us because some candles would burn too high, while others would burn too small. Our job was to investigate why by analyzing the chemical composition.
We separated volatile and non-volatile chemicals. We then looked at which volatiles contained fragrances, wax, additives, and other parts to determine how certain types of chemicals might be affecting the flame.
Once we carefully considered how to analyze different parts of the candle and what could create a difference in burn height, we were able to test the hypothesis in different candles and identify trends.
Present Findings to the Client
In some cases, experiments confirm our initial hypothesis and we’re done. The candle project, however, took quite some time. The wax composition appeared to make a difference in burn height, but it took several iterations with the client to determine the precise root cause.
Once we solve the problem, we generate the necessary data that proves the cause of the problem and present what is essentially a scientific paper to the client. This includes a detailed explanation of what we were trying to achieve, how the chemical composition was analyzed, and how we reached our conclusions.
Again, this is a problem-solving process. By providing concrete answers to the client, we make it possible for the client to determine the best path forward and address the issues uncovered through analysis.
Partner with Alliance Technologies
If you have questions that you need answered through chemical analysis, you don’t have to tell us what test method to run. That would be like going to the doctor with back pain and telling the doctor how to make the pain go away.
We listen to your concerns, experiences, and challenges. We ask questions to gain deeper understanding. Then we determine which test method is appropriate to solve your problem.
It all comes back to problem solving. You don’t have to use scientific language to explain the problem in order for us to provide a scientific solution. If you’d like to learn more about our chemical composition analysis services, please contact us to schedule a consultation.