Deformulation is a reverse engineering process that separates, identifies, and quantifies the ingredients in a product. During the deformulation process, specialty chemical analysis labs attempt to identify and quantify the ingredients and chemical composition of a complex mixture.
Deformulation analysis can be valuable to a wide range of customers, from an individual or small business researching the ingredients and properties of a product they use regularly, to inventors, entrepreneurs, and big businesses who need full product development support to make the next big paint, coating, cleaner, adhesive, or packaging material.
In the early 1980’s, deformulation was mainly practiced only in the research laboratories of very large manufacturing companies. Since this type of analysis requires sophisticated, high-cost instrumentation, few small businesses had access to a multi-million dollar laboratory capable of complex deformulation. But now thanks to new custom chemical testing labs, which have thrived, deformulation services are affordable for companies of many sizes.
Experienced chemists can deformulate a variety of products such as plastics, solvents, pharmaceuticals, textiles and specialty products. With deformulation services, small-to-large companies can:
- Research and contrast competing products
- Discover batch-to-batch variations in their products
- Garner litigation support evidence for patent infringement or trade secret investigations
- Fix product defects and improve manufacturing processes
- Assess new technologies or chemistries
Investigations often being with a broad scan of a sample by infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) or mass spectrometry (GC/MS, LC/MS); however, several complementary analytical techniques may be needed to conduct a detailed deformulation analysis. Analytical techniques used in deformulation analyses often also include nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX), ultraviolet/visible spectroscopy (UV/VIS), induced coupled plasma (ICP-MS), and atomic absorption spectroscopy (AA).
Deformulation is often conducted in conjunction with similar services such as contaminant identification, failure analysis, materials testing and patent infringement support.