Additives analysis for polymers, plastics, helping you to optimise new materials in development, meeting performance specifications & regulatory requirements

A multitude of polymer additives are added to commercial polymers in order to enhance performance and achieve various functional properties and accordingly demands stringent analytical expertise.

Additive analysis for polymer materials can be challenging due to the complexity of the materials: the presence of various groups of additives, compounding ingredients, and fillers all in one sample.   

Chemical identification of polymer additives is essential to all parts of the plastics supply chain as additives can impact both the functional properties of the materials and the production cost of polymers. Robust quantification of polymer additives is also required – if you are a formulator, then understanding the link between amount and kind of additive can add speed and cost savings to your products. If you are a fabricator, the use of certain additives may increase the ease of manufacturing or may also cause issues when regulatory approval is sought for the material in it intended application. Understanding a competitor’s formulation with desirable properties can also lead to key savings and new marketability. In all cases, additive analysis require fit-for-purpose analytical methods.

Analytical Laboratory testing solutions for Polymer Additives

Our polymer additive analysis services provide comprehensive additive identification and measurement in raw materials and solid polymer or plastic materials and composites. We test polymer additives such as anti-oxidants, anti-microbials, cross-linking agents, dispersing agents, dyes, fillers, light stabilisers, surfactants, pigments and plasticizers. Our analytical approaches bring the advantages of low detection limits and applicability to a wide range of structurally different polymer additives.

We possess a great depth of knowledge surrounding polymer stabilisation and root cause of degradation by thermal stress during manufacture or from environmental impact during use and we routinely conduct analysis for anti-oxidants or light stabilisers which may improve stability and reduce risk of degradation. As well as intact stabilizers, the degradation products of stabilizers are also identified to understand the reactions occurring in a polymeric material.

Polymer additive analysis and consultancy

We routinely work with clients around to world who seek advice regarding patent infringement, trace impurities, contamination issues or when the incorrect combination of additives may have occurred. Our experts can conduct both advanced analytical programs to identify and measure the additives present but can also provide advisory guidance to give you the expert insight you need to solve the problem, address a legal issue, minimise production downtime or progress research.

Food contact materials additive analysis

We provide additive studies for food contact and food packaging materials. This includes comprehensive additive identification and characterization capabilities in our laboratories and expertise in regional food contact regulatory advisory services from our global consulting team. 

Pharmaceutical polymer additives analysis

Our extractables / leachables experts have over 20 years' experience in the identification, and quantification of trace levels of additives in a wide range of materials, polymers and plastics used in pharmaceutical packaging. Following controlled extraction studies our Good Manufacturing Practice laboratories perform suitable method validation and GMP compliant analytical studies to ensure the safety of pharmaceutical packaging. 

Pharmaceutical additive solutions

Polymer additive analytical techniques

Our laboratories use a range of selective and specific analytical instrumentation for polymer additive analysis. High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) may be used to analyse non-volatile and heat-unstable additives. 

Following controlled extraction studies, we determine organic additives with a selection of analytical techniques, depending on the type of additives present; for example gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy (GC/MS) may be implemented for the identification and quantitation of volatile and semi-volatile organic additives. 

Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FT-IR), Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR), GPC (Gel Permeation Chromatography), Pyrolysis GC/MS and UV-Vis spectroscopy are used to analyze polymeric additives, polymeric processing aids and polymeric UV stabilizers. We also use HPLC (High Sensitivity - High Performance Liquid Chromatography) to qualify and quantify low levels of additives in polymeric materials with levels of quantification down to < 10 bbp in some situations.   

Techniques such as scanning electron microscope/Energy Dispersive X Ray Spectroscopy (SEM/EDXA), X-Ray diffraction spectroscopy (XRD) and inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy (ICP) may be used to study inorganic additives such as pigments or fillers, depending on the type and level of the additive in question.

The experience and expertise which we bring to the measurement of polymer additives and our knowledge of how these impact polymer properties and performance can facilitate your decision-making when choosing suppliers, developing new materials, comparing products, solving problems and streamlining processes.

Increasingly stringent requirements imposed through regulation in areas such as materials for food contact and packaging are placing greater demands on analytical equipment, and evels of detection and quantification of < 10 bbp are becoming more common. With Intertek's acquisition of HPLC systems from Agilent - utilising an extended path length cell for the Diode Array Detector - low levels of detection can be routinely achieved.

This system is a UHPLC instrument with an upper pressure limit of 600 bar, which together with the high speed 80 Hz diode array detector can make full use of the new sub-2 micron columns for rapid analysis with high sensitivity. It provides low level additive analysis in polymers and plastics, for example:

- Regulatory tests (such as specific migration) for food packaging
- Regulatory analysis, such as low levels of bisphenol A in baby bottles
- Plastics additives analysis and deformulation

    One of the keys to determining additives in a formulation is separating the compounds of interest from the polymer and each other. Intertek has both the experience and tools to approach this in a variety of ways. Intertek can offer various screening techniques such as Pyrolysis-GC-MS as well as a variety of extractions and analysis by chromatography. 

    In one case, our experts used an extraction method and then analysis via mass spectroscopy and found that the particular additive package featured the following: dioctylphthalate, Tinuvin 312, Irganox 1010 and Irgafos 168. This information, combined with our product knowledge – that Dioctylphthalate is a plasticiser, Tinuvin 312 is a UV absorber, Irganox 1010 is an antioxidant and Irgafos 168 is a processing stabiliser - allowed our client to formulate a more cost-effective package to meet their specific requirements.

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