What Analyzers are Used for Polymer Identification?

There are a wide variety of analyzers available to use in a polymer identification test. Find out which tool would best suit your material research here.


What Analyzers are Used for Polymer Identification?

In the ever-evolving field of polymer science, the accurate identification and analysis of polymers are critical for quality control, research, and development. This blog will delve into the sophisticated analytical techniques used for polymer identification and highlight the principles, applications, and limitations of different polymer analysis techniques.

Pyrolysis Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry

A crucial analytical tool that can be used for polymer identification is pyrolysis gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS).

This technique involves the thermal decomposition of the polymer (pyrolysis), followed by the separation and identification of the resulting compounds.

Frontier lab pyrolyzers are commonly used and paired with JEOL's Q1600GC or GC-Alpha. The msFineAnalysis AI software enhances the process by providing sophisticated data interpretation, leveraging artificial intelligence to analyze complex pyrolysis results. This method is particularly effective for identifying unknown polymers, additives, and fillers, and for understanding their thermal degradation behaviors.

Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry

Another essential instrument in polymer characterization is matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS).

JEOL’s SpiralTOF, coupled with msRepeatFinder software, offers high-resolution mass spectra of polymers. This technique excels in determining molecular weights and distribution, end-group analysis, and copolymer composition.

However, it is crucial to note that as the molecular weight of a polymer increases, the oligomeric resolution declines. Eventually, it will render MALDI-TOF MS unsuitable for identifying the polymer. Only the molecular weight can be determined beyond this threshold, which varies depending on the polymer type.

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is another versatile tool used for polymer identification. It provides detailed information about the molecular structure, including the arrangement of atoms within the polymer.

This non-destructive technique can differentiate between crystalline and amorphous regions in polymers and is instrumental in elucidating copolymer composition and sequence distribution. NMR is particularly useful for understanding the chemical structure and physical properties of polymers.

Meet us at Pittcon

The field of polymer science relies heavily on advanced analytical techniques for polymer identification. Each method, Py-GC-MS, MALDI-TOF MS, and NMR, offers unique advantages and limitations. Their application is pivotal in ensuring the quality and performance of polymer materials, contributing significantly to advancements in materials science and engineering.

At JEOL, we are continually inspired by the endless possibilities of polymer science and the critical role of different analysis techniques for driving innovation. These tools are crucial for successfully identifying polymers.
As we explore the frontiers of material characterization, we invite fellow experts and curious minds to join us at our booth at Pittcon this year. This is an excellent opportunity for you to engage with our team, discover our latest advancements in polymer analysis, and discuss how our cutting-edge technologies can empower your research and development endeavors.

Together, let's shape the future of polymer science and uncover the next breakthrough in material technology. We look forward to insightful conversations and collaborations with you at Pittcon.


  1. Kusch P. Pyrolysis-Gas Chromatography: Mass Spectrometry Of Polymeric Materials. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Company; 2018. 
  2. Lattimer R, Montaudo G. Mass Spectrometry of Polymers. USA: CRC Press; 2001. 
  3. Tonelli A. NMR Spectroscopy and Polymer Microstructure: The Conformational Connection. USA: Wiley-VCH; 1989. 
  4. Stuart B. Infrared Spectroscopy: Fundamentals and Applications. USA: Wiley; 2004.


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