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Elemental analysis in the plastics industry

SpecialChem / Jul 30, 2003

How much manganese is there in this nylon compound? How much silicon is present in this polyethylene? What are the bromine, antimony and zinc levels in this polystyrene formulation? These are only some of the elements that need to be under constant control during the manufacturing of plastics. X-ray fluorescence spectrometry is an important analytical tool available to the plastics industry that can analyze and quantify such additives in order to ensure that the desired quality and properties are achieved in the final product. Non-organic elements are routinely added to plastics during manufacture to enhance or suppress specific properties. Some of these elements can be hazardous or carcinogenic to humans and wildlife. Plastics compounds are a mix of materials that need to be strictly controlled during manufacture in order to comply with an increasing number of national and international safety regulations. Therefore, plastics manufacturers require precise and repeatable measurements of such additives. Full characterization can be a challenge. There are a number of potential methods for elemental analysis - each of which brings certain advantages and limitations.

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