What is Chemical Analysis?

A woman in a lab uses chemical analysis to solve manufacturing issuesChemical analysis can be used to determine a chemical’s identity or the identity of its components. To give some context to how chemical analyses can be used in manufacturing and production, here are some examples of chemical analysis methods and applications for them:

Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry – GC/MS Analysis

Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry is used to qualitatively identify unknown materials by comparing a sample’s mass spectrum to a large reference library of spectra. GC/MS analysis is also used quantitatively to determine the concentration of the components within a sample. Materials can be analyzed with GC/MS if they are liquid, gas, or are a compound off gassed by a solid.

Example: If a product is giving off a strong odor, Headspace GC/MS can be used to identify what is being outgassed by the product.

Thermogravimetric Analysis – TGA

Materials analysts use TGA to determine qualitative and quantitative differences in materials, such as polymers, by heating them in a controlled environment and plotting the volatilization temperatures of the sample’s components. If an inorganic filler is used in a polymer, TGA helps determine the quantity within.

Example: This chemical analysis method can help manufacturers understand how their products will react to extreme weather conditions. TGA defines the thermal limits of products.

Differential Scanning Calorimetry – DSC

DSC is another type of thermal analysis method; DSC measures quantitative heat flow of samples undergoing phase transitions, say from a solid to a liquid. During testing, DSC measures the temperature at moments of transition and compares the rate of change to that of known reference materials. Manufacturers can use this information to analyze their materials and products for quality control, studying purity and composition variations, and the degree of crystallinity or oxidation.

Example:   Parts from a new supplier were breaking at an increased rate than had previously seen. Comparison by DSC of the new parts to retains from the previous vendor showed the crystallinity of the new parts greater than the old. The greater crystallinity in the polymer was causing the polymer to be brittle and break more readily.

Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy – FTIR Analysis

To determine the composition of unknown materials, FTIR analysis measures the infrared wavelengths absorbed by a sample. This chemical analysis method is often the first step in the materials analysis process because it is simple to perform and can illuminate so much information about the sample. Very small samples, as little as 20 microns in diameter, can be used as a sample for FTIR analysis.

Example: Manufacturers can use FTIR analysis to identify particles, residues, films, and fibers. FTIR can also help identify and, in some cases, quantify potentially harmful chemicals and contaminants on products such as electronics, toys, medical devices, and food service items.


Auger Electron Spectroscopy (AES), a chemical analysis method, is used for analyzing material surfaces. By collecting a survey scan, multiplex scan, surface map, and depth profile, Auger Electron Spectroscopy helps manufacturers quantify and qualify microscopic materials.

Example: AES is especially helpful for evaluating the chemical treatments of metals used in medical devices and microelectronics.

Chemical analysis methods can solve many problems for manufacturers, from contamination issues and reverse engineering to ensuring the cleanliness of a product and the corrosion resistance of a metal.

Innovatech Labs conducts each of the chemical analysis methods listed above for a great variety industries. Contact us if you are having a manufacturing issue, and we will help you find a way to solve it.

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