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  • Rebecca Anderson

Blog: Got Product Contamination? FTIR Analysis Can Be the First Step in the Troubleshooting Process

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

(Written for Innovatech Labs)

An unknown residue on a molded plastic part. Peculiar fibers present on plastic packaging. And adhesion failure. Product contamination can manifest in many ways—and quickly determining the source is of paramount importance to keep production rolling, protect end-users, and bolster the company’s bottom line.

The good news is that Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, or FTIR analysis for short, can be an effective first step in the troubleshooting process to identify unknown compounds so you can isolate and mitigate the source, and take steps to prevent future occurrences.

Why? This materials analysis technique has stood the test of time. The roots of FTIR date back to the 1800s, with its applications and influence growing over the years. But today, there are three core reasons to consider FTIR as your first step in identifying product contamination: Simplicity, sensitivity, and speed.

1. The Simplicity of FTIR

The concept of FTIR is inherently simple. The technique measures a sample’s absorption of infrared light at different wavelengths to determine its molecular composition and structure.

Furthermore, while it takes know-how from an experienced materials analyst to ensure the most accurate FTIR results, the test itself is also quite simple. Once the sample is prepared, it’s inserted into the spectrometer, which measures the patterns of absorption bands at the various wavelengths throughout the infrared region, and then provides a FTIR spectrum for analysis.

2. The Sensitivity of FTIR

Each FTIR spectrum—the summary of how light is absorbed at the different wavelengths—is like a unique fingerprint. And with the help of an ultra-sensitive spectrometer and an extensive reference library, our skilled scientists can easily interpret and analyze FTIR spectrum results to identify unknown materials, additives, and contaminants.

But FTIR’s ability to identify a sample’s unique composition isn’t the only sensitivity benefit. A standard FTIR test can provide accurate identification of organic and some inorganic materials using samples as small as 10-20 microns.

In addition, if maintaining the integrity of the sample is a priority, reflectance techniques may be an option for some types of material. And even though FTIR is a bulk analysis method, there are a myriad of ways to help ensure small amounts of one material can be isolated during analysis.

3. The Speed of FTIR

When it comes to materials testing, FTIR testing and analysis might be the closest thing to immediate results. The test itself takes less than one hour. Even allowing for time for sample preparation and data analysis, Innovatech Labs can provide expedited results in as little as 24 to 48 hours.

Is FTIR Testing the Right First Step for Your Needs?

Simplicity, sensitivity, and speed make FTIR analysis a great first step in the product contamination troubleshooting process for products such as manufactured devices, adhesives, and plastics. With fast, accurate identification of contaminants, quality departments can get production—and their companies—back on track as soon as possible.

If you suspect product contamination or have other materials testing needs, contact us. Our team of scientists has decades of experience helping our clients mitigate quality control and production issues.

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