Specialty chemicals

Analytical instruments to characterize and optimize specialty chemical formulations

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Specialty chemicals, also referred to as effect or performance chemicals, are high-value and often custom-manufactured materials that provide unique properties or performance effects to materials or formulations. They can be novel molecules such as specialty polymers or additives, or a mixture of molecules and phases such as a coating formulation.

As the name implies, specialty chemicals are designed to provide a functional benefit or performance attribute to a formulation or product. To achieve this, the physical and chemical properties of the formulation and formulation components must be optimized to ensure compatibility, stability, and processability, and that end-user requirements are met.

Please download our catalyst brochure or paints and coatings brochure to find out more.

Malvern Panalytical has a range of complementary technologies and solutions to assist with the development of new products and improve the process and manufacturing efficiency for the following applications:

Why is characterization important?

Characterization is important across the specialty chemicals industry, whether developing and qualifying raw materials for use in a catalyst manufacturing process or formulating several components together to create a functional ink or coating with the desired performance requirements and stability. Each component has a key role to play and must be optimized for that role and benchmarked against other development candidates. Each component must also be compatible with others in a formulation and able to be manufactured efficiently and consistently to give a stable and functional product every time.

What specialty chemical characterization solutions does Malvern Panalytical offer?

Particle size and shape

Particle size analysis is critical to the performance of any product containing particulate material, whether in a dispersion, suspension, powder, or spray. The primary particle sizing tool is laser diffraction, with the Mastersizer considered the industry standard for a range of specialty chemical industry applications, with dry and wet dispersion capabilities and a wide dynamic range. Malvern Panalytical also offers the Spraytec specifically for the particle size analysis of sprays, and an on-line analyzer called Insitec, which can be integrated into a process for real-time particle sizing and automated control. In addition to particle size, Malvern Panalytical provides solutions for particle shape analysis. The Morphologi 4 automated imaging system determines the size and shape of irregular particles by analyzing tens of thousands of particles in the sample and classifying them accordingly. Morphologi 4-ID combines automated imaging and Raman spectroscopy to also provide particle-specific chemical information. 

Dispersion analysis

For the accurate size analysis of nanoparticle dispersions and emulsions (< 1 µm), the Zetasizer Advance range is often the tool of choice. This uses dynamic light scattering to measure the size, concentration, and dispersion state of dispersed particles to below 1nm in diameter. It can also be used to look at processes such as surfactant and polymer aggregation. As well as measuring the particle size distribution of dispersions, the Zetasizer can determine the zeta potential of dispersed particles, which can influence formulation stability. Zeta potential can also be used to probe interactions within a formulation. Another technique for characterizing the size and concentration of nanoparticle dispersions is nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA), which tracks the diffusion of individual particles in a dispersion to provide high-resolution particle size and concentration information.

Elemental analysis

Malvern Panalytical’s primary tool for elemental analysis is X-ray fluorescence (XRF), which is used in a wide range of specialty chemical applications such as the determination of Pt, Pd, and Rh in catalytic converters, Si/Al ratios in zeolites, and the composition of pigments and deposited coatings. Malvern Panalytical provides three main solutions: EDXRF benchtop systems such as Epsilon 4, floor-standing WDXRF systems such as Zetium, and online solutions such as Epsilon XFlow. Malvern Panalytical also provides many sample preparation solutions for XRF, ICP, and AA through its Claisse portfolio.

Polymer analysis

Many specialty chemicals are polymeric or contain polymeric components to provide a specific function such as rheology modification, film-forming, adhesion, and stabilization. As many of these functional attributes are related to the physical and chemical properties of the macromolecules, oligomers, and monomers, it is important to characterize these. Malvern Panalytical’s OMNISEC provides important information about molecular weight, molecular structure, and molecular size by combining gel permeation chromatography (GPC) and advanced detection (light scattering, viscosity, refractive index, and UV detectors). Additional techniques include XRF for looking at additive composition and X-ray diffraction (XRD) for looking at polymer crystallinity. 

Bulk and surface microstructure

Many specialty chemicals are crystalline, semi-crystalline, or have a liquid crystal structure, and that structure can have a major impact on a material’s properties and performance. XRD can be useful for studying such materials and can provide information about phases present, degree of crystallinity, crystallite size, and arrangement. For simple phase analysis, the Aeris compact XRD diffractometer provides quality data quickly at an affordable price, while the Empyrean multi-purpose diffractometer is a truly universal instrument for the analysis of powders, thin films, nanomaterials, and solid objects with a wide range of special accessories.

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Our solutions

Mastersizer range

Complete particle size distribution for your pigments and powder coatings
Mastersizer range

Zetasizer range

Analyze the particle size and stability of your colloidal dispersions
Zetasizer range

Morphologi 4

Particle size and shape analysis of your pigments and powder coatings
Morphologi 4


Determine the molecular weight, size, and structure of your polymer materials


Compact X-ray diffraction for simplified phase analysis of coating materials

Epsilon 4

Benchtop XRF spectrometers for simple elemental analysis of pigment and coatings
Epsilon 4