Analyzing Chemical Mixtures with Dynamic Imaging Particle Analysis
Recent studies have shown that knowing the actual length and width of particles in chemical formulations can be of critical importance to product effectiveness. FlowCAM® can provide you with this information instantly – providing both an accurate size distribution and a digital image of each particle.
You can use the FlowCAM to maintain quality control in a variety of chemical mixtures, including paint and coatings, printing ink and ink jet toner, consumer products, such as detergents and shampoos, adhesives, as well as dispersions, emulsions and mixtures.
Some examples of how the FlowCAM can be used in the Chemical Industry Include:
A solvent-based chemical used in the production of a globally available consumer product required a specific ratio of solid, black specks dispersed throughout the opaque liquid. If a sample lacked the proper ratio of particulates, the entire batch was discarded. With production humming in quantities measured by the metric ton, each bad batch could cost thousands upon thousands of dollars. But more alarming to the quality assurance team was the potential for a bad sample to slip through testing, earn approval and ship to a customer. Once there, a bad batch would manifest itself in a variety of costly production woes that would ultimately be traced back to the quality of the chemical.
To determine whether each batch sample contained the proper amount of particulates, the company relied on a manual inspection system combining traditional microscopes and the naked eye. But making slides and grabbing images of every particle of every batch was time consuming, labor intensive and impractical at best, if virtually impossible. With the FlowCAM they were able to automate and accelerate the entire testing process.
Using the FlowCAM they determine the length, width, and opacity of each particle and then characterize, document and archive each one for further analysis. In a few seconds, the FlowCAM can image as many particles as a skilled lab technician with a high-end microscope can image in the course of a week, and with finer resolution and superior detail. Plus use of the FlowCAM also reduces chemical handling and minimizes exposure to staff and the environment.
With their library of visual, tangible knowledge, the quality assurance team can quickly email the images to manufacturing and help pinpoint the root cause of a process interruption while providing a common basis for the discussion. The speed and certainty of documenting the culprit particles saves time, reduces waste production and ensures peak material quality.
The FlowCAM provides them with an amazing insight into the entire process that has provided a level of understanding that just could not happen with any other technology. The company established a new set of batch testing criteria based on the unique abilities of the FlowCAM.
Microencapsulation is a common technique for delivering particles in a wide range of applications, including foods. In the microencapsulation process a small amount of a substance (active ingredient) is packaged inside a second substance in order to shield the active ingredient from the surrounding environment. The FlowCAM yields tremendous insight into the process of coacervate formation, because you can dynamically monitor capsule formation over time while studying the effects of temperature, concentration, pH and other variables that affect the process. Below are FlowCAM images of encapsulated flavors.
Chromatography can be used in the food industry for quality control as it allows for the separation and analysis of additives, vitamins, preservatives, proteins, and amino acids. It can also separate and detect contaminants. The FlowCAM provides critical size and shape information on the column packing materials used in chromatography. This allows for tighter column density control, and in turn, better control of column performance. It also helps in the tracing of the damaged (non-spherical) particles that are often present in different lots of packing material.
The image below shows results of a FlowCAM analysis of column packing material. The image on the left shows round, acceptable particles, whereas the image of the right shows less round, unacceptable particles. The FlowCAM allows you to automatically characterize either acceptable or unacceptable particles, and delivers your statistical results immediately upon completion of the run.