Deformulation is the analysis of a complex, unknown material in order to identify and quantify its constituent elements. The ideal, complete deformulation study begins with an unknown material and ends with a detailed report of its composition, including a breakdown of its additive package and insight into the manufacturing process. Also known as reverse engineering, deformulation may be performed on a broad range of product forms, ranging from raw materials up to and including fabricated components.

What Is Your Goal?

The clear establishment of project goals is a crucial first step in beginning a deformulation study. Rarely is a complete deformulation—an extensive, costly process—required to resolve most of our client problems.

Instead, Cambridge Polymer Group will provide the expertise to guide you to the correct analysis for your application. For example, if you are attempting to determine the composition of a hair gel that you have been packaging for years but is no longer supplied, then the exact scent is unimportant and what is critical is the composition of the gelling compound.

We will help you zero in on what information is actually important to you and test, in a relevant manner, the material you supply. Through this approach the project is only as complex as it needs to be, and the costs to you are therefore reduced.

Levels of Material Deformulation

There are different levels of deformulation analysis that may be performed on any given material:

  • Major component identification (>1% weight percent)
    • Includes determination of the base polymer(s), major additives, fillers, etc.
  • Trace component identification (down to ppm levels)
    • Includes low-level additives, residual monomers/solvents, impurities, etc.
  • Major and minor component quantification
    • Includes analytical method development and validation if necessary
  • Insight into processing conditions
    • Crosslinking mechanisms, processing aids, machining, molding approach, etc.
  • Formulation of reversed engineered material
    • Preparation of prototypes of material of interest

Identify and Quantify Additives

Polymers in particular may contain a broad range of additives that influence material behavior. Deformulation may be used to identify and quantify:

  • Base Polymer (with molecular weight information)
  • UV stabilizers
  • Antioxidants
  • Crosslinking/curing agents
  • Fillers
  • Plasticizers
  • Surfactants
  • Pigments
  • Odors

Deformulation Techniques

Deformulation may leverage a broad range of analytical techniques, which CPG has extensive experience with:

  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)
  • Thermogravimetric Analysis-Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometry (TGA-FTIR)
  • Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy (LC-MS)
  • Scanning Electron Microscopy-Energy Dispersive Spectrometry (SEM-EDS)
  • Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometry (ICP-OES)
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR)
  • Gel Permeation Chromatography (GPC)
  • Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS)

Contact Us

Email us or call us at 617-629-4400 to find out how CPG can help with your deformulation.