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NIR spectroscopy in the polymer industry: The ideal tool for QC and product screening – Part 5

NIR spectroscopy in the polymer industry: The ideal tool for QC and product screening – Part 5

The history of polyurethanes

In 1937, the German chemist Dr. Otto Bayer (1902–1982) invented the versatile class of plastics we call polyurethanes. Polyurethanes are available in myriad forms—they are used in numerous products, from coatings and adhesives to shoe soles, mattresses, and foam insulation. Despite the variety in their characteristics, the underlying chemistry of these different forms is strikingly similar.

During World War II, the use of polyurethanes became popular as a replacement for rubber, which at the time was expensive and hard to obtain. Around the 1950s, polyurethanes began to be used in adhesives, elastomers, rigid foams, and flexible cushioning foams such as those used today.

Wallace Carothers, inventor of polyamide.
Dr. Otto Bayer was credited with inventing polyurethanes in 1937.

Nowadays, a life without polyurethane is difficult to imagine, as you can easily find it everywhere around you.

How is polyurethane created?

 

Polyurethanes are formed by reacting polyols (i.e., alcohols containing more than two reactive hydroxyl groups in each molecule) with di-isocyanates or polymeric isocyanates. Suitable catalysts and additives are used wherever necessary. Since both a variety of di-isocyanates and a wide range of polyols can be used to produce polyurethane, a large spectrum of polyurethane materials can be produced to meet the specific requirements for different applications. Polyurethanes can appear in a variety of forms including rigid foams, flexible foams, specialty adhesives, chemical-resistant coatings, sealants, and elastomers.

Figure 1. Molecular structures of isocyanates, polyols, and polyurethane.

Physical and chemical properties of polyurethanes

The properties of polyurethanes are highly dependent on their production process. When the polyol chain (Figure 1) is long and flexible, the final product will be soft and elastic. On the other hand, if the extent of cross-linking is very high, the final polyurethane product will be tough and rigid. The cross-linked structure of polyurethanes generally consists of three-dimensional networks which result in very high molecular weights. This structure also accounts for the thermosetting nature of the polymer since polyurethane typically does not soften or melt when exposed to heat.

One of the most popular forms of polyurethane is foam. This form is created by facilitating the production of carbon dioxide gas during the urethane polymerization process.

Typical applications of polyurethane

The primary application of polyurethane is in the production of foams (rigid and flexible). Other important applications and uses of polyurethane are listed below.

 

  • Low-density, flexible polyurethane foams are widely used in mattresses and automobile seats.
  • Bathroom and kitchen sponges are commonly made from polyurethane. It is also used in the manufacturing process of seat cushions and couches.
  • Polyurethane is also used to produce textiles used in some clothing and upholstery.
  • Due to its good insulating properties, polyurethane materials are commonly used in construction work.
  • Polyurethane moldings are also used in columns and door frames.
  • Flexible polyurethane is used in the manufacture of partially elastic straps and bands.
  • The low-density elastomers of polyurethane are widely used in the footwear industry.

In Table 1 a variety of polyurethane properties are compared to other conventional materials like rubber, metal, and plastic.

Table 1. Polyurethane in comparison with rubber, metal, and plastic.

PU vs. Rubber

PU vs. Metal

PU vs. Plastic

High abrasion resistance

Lightweight

High impact resistance

High cut and tear resistance

Noise reduction

Elastic memory

Superior load bearing

Abrasion resistance

Abrasion resistance

Thick section molding

Less expensive fabrication

Noise reduction

Colorability

Corrosion resistance

Variable coefficient of friction

Oil resistance

Resilience

Resilience

Ozone resistance

Impact resistance

Thick section molding

Radiation resistance

Flexibility

Lower cost tooling

Broader hardness range

Easily moldable

Low temperature resistance

Castable nature

Non-conductive

Cold flow resistance

Low pressure tooling

Non-sparking

Radiation resistance

Near-infrared spectroscopy as a tool to assess the quality of polyurethanes

Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) has been an established method for both fast and reliable quality control within the polyurethane industry for more than 30 years. However, many companies still do not consistently consider the implementation of NIRS in their QA/QC labs. The reasons could be either limited experience regarding application possibilities or a general hesitation about implementing new methods.

There are several advantages of using NIRS over other conventional analytical technologies. For one, NIRS is able to measure multiple parameters in just 30 seconds without any sample preparation! The non-invasive light-matter interaction used by NIRS, influenced by physical as well as chemical sample properties, makes it an excellent method for the determination of both property types.

In the remainder of this post, a short overview of polyurethane applications is presented, followed by available turnkey solutions for polyurethane analysis developed according the NIRS implementations guidelines of ASTM E1655-17.

Did you miss the first parts in this series? Find them here!

For more detailed information about NIRS as a secondary technique, read our previous blog posts on this subject.

Applications and parameters for polyurethanes with NIRS

When producing different types of polyurethanes, it is important to check certain parameters to guarantee the quality of the finished products. Typical parameters include hydroxyl number, acid number, moisture, and color in polyols as well as the NCO (isocyanates) content, (total) acid number, and moisture content in polyurethanes. The most relevant applications for NIRS analysis in polyurethane production are listed later in this article in in Table 2.

Where can NIRS be used in the polyurethane production process?

Figure 2 shows the individual steps from plastic producer via plastic compounder and plastic converter to plastic parts and foam producer.

Figure 2. Illustration of the production chain for polyurethanes.

Easy implementation of NIR spectroscopy for plastic producers

Metrohm has extensive expertise with analysis of polyamides and offers a turnkey solution in the form of the DS2500 Polyol Analyzer. This instrument is a ready-to-use solution for the determination of multiple quality parameters in polyols and polyurethanes. For the analysis of polyurethane pellets and parts, the Metrohm DS2500 Solid Analyzer is recommended.

Figure 3. Turnkey solution for polyurethane analysis with the Metrohm DS2500 Polyol Analyzer.

Learn more about the possibilities of polymer analysis with Metrohm DS2500 Analyzers in our free brochure.

Application example:

Pre-calibrations and starter model for the PU industry on the DS2500 Polyol Analyzer

The determination of the parameters listed below in Table 2 is a lengthy and challenging process with conventional laboratory methods. To measure them all, several different techniques are required which takes a significant amount of time, not only to analyze the sample, but also for the instrument management and upkeep.

Table 2. Primary method vs. NIRS for the determination of various quality parameters in PU samples.
Parameter Primary method Time to result (primary method) Relevant NIRS Application Notes NIRS benefits
Hydroxyl number in Polyols

Titration

90 min. preparation + 1 min. Viscometer

AN-NIR-068

AN-NIR-065

AN-NIR-035

AN-NIR-007

All three parameters are measured simultaneously within a minute, without sample preparation or the need of any chemical reagents
NCO (Isocyanate) content in PU HPLC 20 min. preparation + 20 min. HPLC
Moisture content

Karl Fischer Titration

25 min. preparation + 5 min. KF Titration

 

The NIRS prediction models created for polyols are based on a large collection of real product spectra and are developed in accordance with ASTM E1655-17 Standard practices for Infrared Multivariate Quantitative Analysis. For more detailed information on this topic, download the free white paper.

To learn more about pre-calibrations for polyols, download our brochure and visit our website.

One example of a dedicated ASTM standard referring to NIRS is ASTM D6342-12 Standard Practice for Polyurethane Raw Materials: Determining Hydroxyl Number of Polyols by Near Infrared (NIR) Spectroscopy. The following application example demonstrates that the DS2500 Polyol Analyzer operating in the visible and near-infrared spectral region (Vis-NIR) provides a cost-efficient and fast solution for the determination of the hydroxyl number in polyols and the NCO (isocyanate) content in polyurethanes. With no sample preparation or chemicals required, Vis-NIR spectroscopy allows analysis of all three quality parameters listed in Table 2 in less than a minute. The results are shown in Figure 4 and Figure 5.

Figure 4. Turnkey solution for determination of hydroxyl number in polyols using the Metrohm DS2500 Polyol Analyzer. A: Sampling and analysis of polyols. B: NIRS results compared to a primary laboratory method along with the Figures of Merit (FOM).
Figure 5. Turnkey solution for determination of NCO content (Isocyanates) in polyurethane using the Metrohm DS2500 Polyol Analyzer. A: Sampling and analysis of polyurethane. B: NIRS results compared to a primary laboratory method along with the Figures of Merit (FOM).

This application example demonstrates that NIR spectroscopy is excellently suited for the analysis of multiple parameters in polyols and polyurethanes in less than one minute without sample preparation or using any chemical reagents. Visit our website to learn more about our variety of analytical solutions for the polymer industry!

For more information

About spectroscopy solutions provided by Metrohm, visit our website!

We offer NIRS for lab, NIRS for process, as well as Raman solutions

Post written by Wim Guns, International Sales Support Spectroscopy at Metrohm International Headquarters, Herisau, Switzerland.

Fast and fundamental: influences on reliable electrochemical measurements

Fast and fundamental: influences on reliable electrochemical measurements

The ultimate goal of any researcher is to contribute to the progress of society by pioneering exploration beyond the known limits. Depending on the research type and application field, one way to fulfill this is to collect reliable experimental data on rapidly occurring processes (less than 1 ms).

Having insight into the fundamentals of these reaction mechanisms can ultimately lead to the discovery of new materials or the improvement of current solutions. In electrochemical research, reaction mechanisms and intermediates are investigated by measuring the kinetics and dynamics of the electrochemical processes happening at the surface of the electrode on a sub-ms timescale.

This article provides a short overview of the factors that have a direct influence on fast and ultra-fast electrochemical measurements from an experimental setup perspective.

Considering the following factors in the experimental design and execution is the first condition to obtain reliable experimental results for such measurements.

Additional challenges which researchers must be aware of when experimenting with «transient electrochemistry», i.e. doing electrochemical measurements at very low time scales, is presented in the featured article from E. Maisonhaute et al. [1].

Main factors that influence the reliability of fast electrochemical experimental results

The primary components of an electrochemical experimental setup are:

  • The electrochemical cell including the electrodes and electrolyte
  • The electrochemical instrument, i.e., the potentiostat/galvanostat (PGSTAT)

To perform reliable electrochemical experiments in general, and fast electrochemical measurements in particular, the specifications of the complete work system must be considered and the optimal settings must be used for all of the individual parts of the experimental setup.

Time constant of the electrochemical cell

The electrochemical cell and its specifications must be taken into account as it is an important element of the experimental setup.

Transient electrochemical experiments are not meaningful unless the cell time constant is small relative to the timescale of the measurement, regardless of the high-frequency characteristics of the control circuitry.

The cell time constant RuCdl (s) depends directly on the uncompensated resistance Ru (Ω) (i.e. the resistance of the electrolyte between the reference and the working electrode) and the double-layer capacitance Cdl (F) of the electrode [2].

As a consequence, when the potential is stepped or scanned rapidly, the true measured potential Etrue (V) lags behind the applied potential Eappl (V), according to the following equation:

Where RuCdl (s) is the time constant of the cell and t (s) is the time at which the measurement is taken.

Figure 1. Theoretical and true waveform applied to a real electrochemical cell [1].

For fast scan rates (i.e. when 𝑡 is much smaller than RuCdl ), the exponential term approaches 1 and significant errors in 𝐸true with respect to 𝐸appl can arise. For slow scan rates (i.e. when 𝑡 is much larger than RuCdl), the exponential approaches 0 and the errors become negligible.

The time constant of the cell can be reduced in three ways:

  • Reduce Ru via increasing the conductivity of the electrolyte by either increasing concentration of supporting electrolyte or decreasing viscosity
  • Reduce the size of the working electrode (e.g., by using microelectrodes) so that Cdl will be minimized
  • Move the reference electrode as close as possible to the working electrode (e.g., by using a Luggin capillary) so that Ru will be minimized

The electrochemical instrument: potentiostat/galvanostat (PGSTAT)

The potentiostat/galvanostat (PGSTAT) is used to accurately control the applied signal (potential or current) and measure the response (current or potential, respectively) from the electrochemical cell. The accurate control of the applied signals is achieved by using a control loop (or feedback loop) circuit.

When fast electrochemical measurements are executed, the following specifications will have a direct influence on the results and must be considered.

Bandwidth of the control loop of the PGSTAT

In general terms, bandwidth can be described as the parameter that defines how fast the instrument is able to react to any changes in the signal.

In electrochemical terms, the bandwidth is the frequency beyond which the performance of the system is degraded.

The bandwidth of the control loop of the PGSTAT (i.e. bandwidth of the instrument) indicates how fast the applied signal is controlled through the feedback loop.

Higher bandwidth means that the instrument uses a faster control loop (faster feedback). As a result, the applied signal will reach the desired set point faster, and in ideal circumstances the output signal will be identical to the theoretical waveform. However, depending on the properties of the electrochemical cell connected to the instrument, the applied signal might overshoot. In extreme cases, the instrument feedback loop might get out of control causing the potentiostat to oscillate. This is more likely when high-capacitance electrochemical cells are connected to the PGSTAT.

When a Lower bandwidth is used, the overall stability of the PGSTAT increases by reducing the speed of the control loop. In this case, the consequence is that at very high measurement speeds, the output of the applied signal may be slightly less accurate due to a slower slew rate. Nevertheless, when measuring fast transients is not within the scope of the experiment, using the instrument with a lower bandwidth setting is recommended for highly accurate experimental results.

Figure 2. Schematic representation of the applied signal when Low bandwidth (Low speed) and High bandwidth (High speed) settings are used compared with the theoretical response.

Therefore, it is important to choose the control loop bandwidth settings according to the type of the measurement. For ultra-high speed measurements, a higher bandwidth setting must be used with the following considerations:

  • The higher the bandwidth, the higher the noise and the probability that the control loop will go out of control and oscillate.
  • When working with a High bandwidth setting, it is necessary to pay special attention and use adequate cell shielding and electrode connectors. The use of a Faraday cage is recommended in these cases.
  • The use of a high impedance reference electrode (RE) (e.g., double junction reference electrode, a salt bridge with frit) in combination with a High bandwidth of the control loop might lead to instability of the PGSTAT and even to oscillations.
Bandwidth of the current sensor (current range)

The measurement of the current response of an electrochemical cell (in potentiostatic mode) and the control of the applied current value (in galvanostatic mode) is executed with specially designed current sensors. In order to achieve the best sensitivity and resolution for the measurement, individual current sensors are used depending on the magnitude of the measured (or applied) current.

Each current sensor circuit (which corresponds to a current range) has a specific bandwidth or response time. Therefore for the most accurate results (especially important for fast, time resolved experiments), the current range must be selected so that the bandwidth of the current sensor will not be the limiting factor for the time response (speed) of the measurement.

In general, the lower the measured currents, the lower the bandwidth of the current sensor.

Data sampling interval vs the timescale of the investigated transient signal

The measured electrochemical response can have a complex shape with components at many frequencies. The highest frequency component of the measured or applied signal determines the bandwidth of that signal. The bandwidth of the signal should not be higher than the bandwidth of the measuring device.

If the highest frequency component of the signal is fSIGNAL, then according to the Nyquist Theorem [3] the sampling rate fSAMPLE must be at least 2 fSIGNAL (i.e. two times higher than the highest frequency component of the signal).

Figure 3. Effect of the sampling frequency of an ideal sinusoidal signal [3]. Shown here are the theoretical signal (dashed line), sample points, and resulting measured signal (orange line).

In other words, the data sampling interval must be lower than the timescale in which the time resolved (transient) measurement from the investigated electrochemical process is expected to occur. There is a practical correlation between the sampling interval and instrument bandwidth. When the sampling interval is:

  • higher than 100 μs: the 10 kHz (High Stability) bandwidth should be selected.
  • between 10–100 μs: the 100 kHz (Fast) bandwidth should be selected.
  • smaller than 10 μs: the 1 MHz bandwidth (Ultra-Fast) should be selected.

Summary

To measure reliable experimental data, all elements of the experimental setup must be considered with their own specifications and limitations. The overview above highlights the main factors and parameters which can have a direct influence on fast electrochemical measurements.

Fast measurements start here!

Visit our website to learn more about the variety of potentiostats/galvanostats from Metrohm Autolab.

References

[1] Maisonhaute, E.; et al. Transient electrochemistry: beyond simply temporal resolution, Chem.Commun., 2016, 52, 251—263. doi:10.1039/C5CC07953E

[2] Bard, A.J.; Faulkner, L.R. Electrochemical Methods: Fundamentals and Applications, New York: Wiley, 2001, 2nd ed. Russian Journal of Electrochemistry, 2002, 38, 1364–1365. doi:10.1023/A:1021637209564

[3] Keim, R. The Nyquist–Shannon Theorem: Understanding Sampled Systems. All About Circuits, May 26, 2020. https://www.allaboutcircuits.com/technical-articles/nyquist-shannon-theorem-understanding-sampled-systems/ 

Post written by Dr. Iosif Fromondi, Product Manager and Head of Marketing and Sales Support at Metrohm Autolab, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Nonaqueous acid-base titrations – Common mistakes and how to avoid them

Nonaqueous acid-base titrations – Common mistakes and how to avoid them

Nonaqueous acid-base titrations are widely used in several industries, including the petrochemical  and pharmaceutical sectors. Whether you are determining the acid or base number (AN or BN) in oils or fats, titrating substances that are insoluble in water, or quantifying products with different strengths of acidity or alkalinity separately, nonaqueous acid-base titration is the method of choice.

If you already have some experience performing nonaqueous acid-base titrations, you may remember that there are several challenges to overcome in comparison to aqueous acid-base titrations.

In this blog post, I would like to cover some of the most typical issues that could pop up during nonaqueous acid-base titrations and discuss how to best avoid them. An important point to note is that there is no single solution regarding how to perform any nonaqueous acid-base titration correctly. The right procedure depends highly on the solvent and titrant used.

What is a nonaqueous acid-base titration?

Before discussing nonaqueous titrations, first let’s talk a little bit about aqueous acid-base titrations.

Here, a sample is dissolved in water, and depending of the nature of the sample (whether it is acidic or basic) a titration is performed either using aqueous base or aqueous acid as titrant. For indication, a glass pH electrode is used.

However, sometimes due to the nature of the sample, aqueous titration is not possible. Nonaqueous acid-base titration is used when:

  • the substance of interest is not soluble in water
  • samples are fats or oils
  • components of mixtures of acids or bases have to be determined separately by titration

In these cases, a suitable organic solvent is used to dissolve the sample instead of water. The solvent:

  • should dissolve the sample and not react with it
  • permits the determination of components in a mixture
  • if possible, should not be toxic

The solvents that are most often used include ethanol, methanol, isopropanol, toluene, and glacial acetic acid (or a mixture of these). Titrants are not prepared with water but rather in solvent. Frequently used nonaqueous basic titrants are potassium hydroxide in isopropyl alcohol or sodium hydroxide in ethanol, and a common nonaqueous acidic titrant is perchloric acid in glacial acetic acid.

Due to the nature of nonaqueous solvents, they are normally poor conductors and do not buffer well. This makes indication a bit challenging because the electrode must be suitable for such sample types. Therefore, Metrohm offers the Solvotrode which is developed specifically for nonaqueous titrations.

This pH electrode offers the following advantages over a standard pH electrode:

  • Large membrane surface and a small membrane resistance for accurate reading, also in poorly buffered solutions
  • A flexible ground-joint diaphragm which can easily be cleaned even when contaminated with oily or sticky samples, additionally it offers a symmetrical outflow for outstanding reproducibility
  • The electrode is shielded and is therefore less sensitive to electrostatic interferences
  • It can be used with any nonaqueous electrolyte such as lithium chloride in ethanol

In the following sections I will discuss the most common mistakes when performing potentiometric nonaqueous acid-base titrations and how you can avoid them.

Electrostatic effects

The influence of electrostatic effects during analysis is normally negligible. However, maybe you have once seen a curve like the one below which looks relatively normal until suddenly a spike occurs.

Figure 1. Titration curve with a spike which might have occurred from an electrostatic interference.

This is then an indication of an electrostatic effect. However, where does it come from and how can we overcome this?

Electrostatic charge can be generated from many sources, such as friction. For example, while walking across a surface you will generate an electrostatic charge which will be stored in your body. You have probably touched the doorknob after walking across a carpeted space in your socks and obtained a small electric shock—this is the discharge of built up electrostatic charge. If we now assume that you are electrostatically charged and then you approach an electrode that is currently measuring (in use), this will result in a spike (Figure 1). Therefore, it is essential to make sure that you are either properly discharged or that you do not approach the electrode during measurement. You can avoid this issue by wearing the appropriate clothes. ESD (electrostatic discharge) clothes and shoes are mostly recommended when performing nonaqueous titrations.

Blocked diaphragm

A blocked diaphragm is another point which occurs more regularly during nonaqueous titrations. Due to the oily and sticky sample, you might have seen that the electrode diaphragm is clogged and cannot be opened anymore. What should you do then?

In most cases, you can place the electrode in a beaker of warm water overnight. This treatment often helps to loosen the diaphragm. To completely prevent the diaphragm from clogging, a Solvotrode with easyClean technology should be used. With this electrode, electrolyte is released by pressing the head ensuring that the diaphragm is not blocked.

Choice of electrolyte and storage solution

We recommend two types of electrolyte for nonaqueous titrations.

For titrations with alkaline titrants: tetraethylammonium bromide c(TEABr) = 0.4 mol/L in ethylene glycol

For titrations with acidic titrants: lithium chloride c(LiCl) = 2 mol/L in ethanol

Please make sure to store the electrode in the same electrolyte with which it is filled.

Checking the electrode according to ASTM D664

To check whether the Solvotrode is still in good working condition, perform a test according to ASTM D664 using aqueous buffer solutions of pH 4 and 7. The procedure is as follows:

  • Measure the potential of buffer pH 4.0 while stirring and note the value after 1 minute
  • Remove the electrode and rinse it well with deionized water
  • Measure the potential of buffer pH 7.0 while stirring and note the value after 1 minute
  • Calculate the mV difference between the reading of buffers 4.0 and 7.0
  • The difference must be larger than 162 mV (20–25 °C) to indicate an electrode in good shape

If the measured potential difference is less than 162 mV, the electrode requires maintenance. Lift the flexible sleeve of the ground-joint diaphragm to let some electrolyte flow out. Repeat the measurement according to the steps above. If the value is still less than 162 mV, clean the electrode or replace it.

Proper rinsing and cleaning

Proper rinsing is essential if you want to obtain reliable results. Otherwise, the curve might flatten and the equivalence points are no longer recognizable. Figure 2 illustrates this phenomenon well.

Figure 2. Different determinations according to ASTM D664. With time, the start potential of the curves shifts which indicates an unsuitable cleaning procedure.

The sample is the same, however, you see that the equivalence point and starting potential begin to shift and the curves become flatter. This indicates an improper cleaning procedure between measurements. The corresponding electrode is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Appearance of the electrode used in Figure 2 after five measurements.

This electrode was certainly not cleaned properly! Anyone who performs a nonaqueous titration must consider which solvent might best dissolve the residue—this is not an issue that other analysts can easily solve due to the nature of each individual sample. However, do not ignore an electrode with such an appearance.

Conditioning the glass membrane correctly

As you may remember from our previous blog post about pH measurement, it is essential that the hydration layer of the glass membrane stays intact. Nonaqueous solvents dehydrate the glass membrane rather quickly. A change in the hydration layer can have an impact on the measured potential, therefore it is important that the hydration layer is always in the same state before starting a titration to achieve the most reproducible results.

Proper electrode immersion depth

This can be established with a conditioning step of the glass membrane to rebuild the hydration layer. However, if the solvent is able to remove the hydration layer faster than it takes to perform a titration, this can lead to ghost equivalence points. Therefore, the electrode should be completely dehydrated and kept like this for all further titrations.

 

Polar solvents (e.g., ethanol, acetone, isopropyl alcohol, or mixtures with toluene)

Water-free solvents (e.g., dimethylformamide, acetonitrile, acetic anhydride, or mixtures of these)

Preparation of electrode

Store only the pH membrane (not the diaphragm) in deionized water overnight to build up a proper hydration layer.

Lift the flexible sleeve to allow some electrolyte to flow out.

Dehydrate the pH membrane by placing only the pH membrane (not the diaphragm) in the solvent you will use afterwards for titration.

Lift the flexible sleeve to allow some electrolyte to flow out.

Conditioning of glass membrane Place the pH membrane (bulb only) into deionized water for 1 minute. Place the pH membrane (bulb only) into the corresponding solvent for 1 minute.
Rinsing procedure Rinse electrode with 50–70% ethanol. If this does not help, use a suitable solvent to rinse the electrode and then clean afterwards with 50–70% ethanol. Rinse electrode with glacial acetic acid. If this does not help, use a suitable solvent to rinse the electrode and then clean afterwards with glacial acetic acid.
Remarks Make sure to always keep the bulb of the electrode in deionized water for the same time duration, otherwise the thickness of the hydrated layer (and therefore the response) may vary. Avoid any contact of the electrode with water as this can induce a reaction with the solvent causing ghost equivalence points and irreproducible results.

Maintenance of burets

It is not only the electrode that needs some special attention when performing nonaqueous titrations, but also the electrical buret. Some special maintenance is required since alkaline nonaqueous titrants are especially aggressive and they tend to crystallize, therefore leakage of the buret is likely.

The buret must be maintained on a regular basis according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Metrohm recommends the following procedure:

  • For shorter titration breaks, it is recommended to refill the cylinder with titrant (especially with OMNIS)
  • Clean the buret with deionized water at the end of the day
  • Lubricate the cylinder unit on the centering tube and on the cylinder disc

Also check the corresponding manual of the buret. The most important points are mentioned there which will lead to a longer working life of the buret.

Thermometric titration as an alternative

One alternative to using potentiometric nonaqueous acid-base titration is thermometric titration (TET), depending on the sample and analyte to be measured. Thermometric titration monitors the endothermic or exothermic reaction of a sample with the titrant using a very sensitive thermistor.

The benefit of TET over potentiometric titration is clearly the maintenance-free sensor which does not require any conditioning nor electrolyte refilling. More information about thermometric titration can be found in our previous blog posts below.

Summary

Hopefully this article has provided you with information about the main problems encountered during nonaqueous titrations. First, make sure that all electrostatic influences are eliminated. This will save a significant amount of troubleshooting. Then prepare and treat your electrode correctly before, during, and after titration. Make sure to condition the electrode right before your first measurement!

Of special importance here is the solvent you plan to use. If it is a polar solvent, the electrode should be conditioned in deionized water. If nonpolar solvents like acetic anhydride are used, the electrode should be dehydrated first. Between measurements, the electrode should be cleaned with a suitable solvent and the diaphragm should be opened on occasion.

Last but not least, take care of your buret. Maintain it regularly and replace it whenever necessary. With this advice, performing nonaqueous titrations should be a breeze!

For more information

about nonaqueous titrations, download our monograph:

Nonaqueous titration of acids and bases with potentiometric endpoint indication

Post written by Iris Kalkman (Product Specialist Titration at Metrohm International Headquarters, Herisau, Switzerland) and Dr. Sabrina Gschwind (Head of R&D at Metroglas, Affoltern, Switzerland).

NIR spectroscopy in the polymer industry: The ideal tool for QC and product screening – Part 4

NIR spectroscopy in the polymer industry: The ideal tool for QC and product screening – Part 4

Polyamide (Nylon): A brief introduction

Wallace Carothers (1896–1937), the creator of polyamide.

Polyamide, more commonly known as Nylon, was first synthesized by Wallace Hume Carothers, an American organic chemist working for the DuPont chemical company. In 1935, he developed the formula known as PA66, or Nylon 66.

Just a few years later in 1938, Paul Schlack, a German chemist working at IG Farben, developed PA6 (also known as Nylon 6), a different molecule based on the organic compound caprolactam. Both types of polyamides are well-suited for many kinds of applications. The use of PA6 or PA66 depends on the technical requirements needed as well as the economical constraints.

The two most widely used polyamides are by far PA66 and PA6. These polyamides are most often manufactured into fibers for the textile industry or blown into films used for the packaging industry. Polyamides are also used to produce parts for numerous industries.

Polyamides with the highest performances are PPA (Polyphthalamide or high-performance polyamide) and PA46. Polyamides with these qualities are often used as a replacement for metal materials or for very specific applications where the polymer is exposed to extreme conditions, e.g. automotive structural parts or safety helmets.

Differences between Polyamide 6 (PA6 / Nylon 6) and Polyamide 66 (PA66 / Nylon 66)

Polyamide 6 (PA6) is also known as Nylon 6 or Polycaprolactam. It is one of the most commonly used compounds in the polyamide family. PA6 is synthesized via the ring-opening polymerization of caprolactam.

Figure 1. Molecular structure of caprolactam.
Figure 2. Molecular structure of Polyamide 6.

Polyamide 66 (PA66), also known as Nylon 66, is one of the most popular thermoplastics for engineering purposes and is primarily used as a metal replacement for various applications. Nylon 66 is synthesized via the polycondensation of hexamethylenediamine and adipic acid (two monomers containing six carbon atoms each).

Figure 3. Molecular structure of Polyamide 66.

The differences between both PA6 and PA66 come down to a lot of little things. While both are cost effective, Nylon 6 is typically around 30% cheaper than Nylon 66. A comparison of different factors is made for the two polymers in Table 1.

Table 1. Comparison of PA6 and PA66
Parameter PA6 PA66
Machinability – low tool wear and surface finish Good Better
Mold shrinkage Lower Higher
Water absorption rate Higher Lower
Tensile strength 6.2 × 104 kPa (Good) 8.2 × 104 kPa (Better)
Crystalline melting point 225 °C 265 °C
Density 1.15 g/mL 1.2 g/mL
Typical molding shrinkage ratio 1.2 % 1.5 %
Key properties of PA66 and PA6

As stated earlier, Polyamide 66 (PA66) and Polyamide 6 (PA6) are used in so many different applications because of their excellent performance and relatively low cost. Some of the most important properties of these polyamides are listed below:

  • High strength and rigidity at high temperatures
  • Good impact strength, even at low temperatures
  • Good abrasion and wear resistance
  • Excellent resistance to fuels and oils
  • Good fatigue resistance
  • Very good flow for easy processing
  • PA6 has excellent surface appearance and better processability than PA66 due to its very low viscosity
  • Good electrical insulating properties
  • High affinity for water absorption can limit the applications and usage
  • Low dimensional stability (water absorption results in dimensional change)

Near-infrared spectroscopy as a tool to assess the quality of polyamides

Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) has been an established method for both fast and reliable quality control within the polyamide industry for more than 30 years. However, many companies still do not consistently consider the implementation of NIRS in their QA/QC labs. The reasons could be either limited experience regarding application possibilities or a general hesitation about implementing new methods.

There are several advantages of using NIRS over other conventional analytical technologies. For one, NIRS is able to measure multiple parameters in just 30 seconds without any sample preparation! The non-invasive light-matter interaction used by NIRS, influenced by physical as well as chemical sample properties, makes it an excellent method for the determination of both property types.

In the remainder of this post, a short overview of polyamide applications is presented, followed by available turnkey solutions for polyamide analysis developed according the NIRS implementations guidelines of ASTM E1655-17.

Did you miss the first parts in this series? Find them here!

For more detailed information about NIRS as a secondary technique, read our previous blog posts on this subject.

Applications and parameters for polyamides with NIRS

Polyamide production requires that certain important quality parameters be checked on a regular basis. Typical parameters are relative viscosity as well as the amine and carboxylic end groups, and moisture content. Functional group and viscosity analysis of polyamides is normally a lengthy and challenging process due to the limited solubility of the sample and the need to use different analytical methods. Furthermore caprolactam, an important precursor for polyamide production, is very hygroscopic and water soluble—therefore it is crucial to have a reliable analysis technique for determination of water content. Otherwise the quality of the final product could be compromised.

The most relevant applications for NIRS analysis of PA quality parameters are indicated later in this article in Table 2.

Where can NIRS be used in the production process of polyamides?

Figure 4 shows the individual steps from plastic producer via plastic compounder and plastic converter to plastic parts and textile producer. The first step in which near-infrared lab instruments can be used is when the pure polymers like PA are produced, and their purity needs to be confirmed. NIRS is also a very useful technique during the next step where polymers are compounded into intermediate products to be used for further processing.

Figure 4. Illustration of the production chain for polyamides.

Easy implementation of NIR spectroscopy for plastic producers

Metrohm has extensive expertise with analysis of polyamides and offers a turnkey solution in the form of the DS2500 Polymer Analyzer. This instrument is a ready-to-use solution for the determination of multiple quality parameters in different polyamides.

Figure 5. Turnkey solution for PA analysis with the Metrohm DS2500 Polymer Analyzer.

Application example:

Pre-calibrations available for the polyamide industry on the DS2500 Polymer Analyzer

The determination of the parameters listed below in Table 2 is a lengthy and challenging process with conventional laboratory methods. To measure them all, several different techniques are required which takes a significant amount of time, not only to analyze the sample (which has limited solubility, further complicating the situation), but also for the instrument management and upkeep.

Table 2. Primary method vs. NIRS for the determination of various quality parameters in PA samples.
Parameter Primary method Time to result (primary method) Relevant NIRS Application Notes NIRS benefits
Relative viscosity

Viscosity

90 min. preparation + 1 min. Viscometer

AN-NIR-077

AN-NIR-060

AN-NIR-005

All four parameters are measured simultaneously within a minute, without sample preparation or the need of any chemical reagents
Carboxyl end groups

Titration

90 min. preparation + 20 min. Titration
Amine end groups

Titration

90 min. preparation + 20 min. Titration
Moisture content

Karl Fischer Titration (oven)

2 min. preparation + 15 min. KF Titration (oven)

 

The NIRS prediction models created for polyamides are based on a large collection of real product spectra and is developed in accordance with ASTM E1655-17 Standard practices for Infrared Multivariate Quantitative Analysis. For more detailed information on this topic, download the free white paper.

To learn more about pre-calibrations for polyamides, download our brochure and visit our website.

Figure 6 shows the results of the Metrohm turnkey solution for non-destructive determination of several quality parameters in PA listed in Table 2.

Figure 6. Turnkey solution for relative viscosity (RV), amine end groups, carboxyl end groups, and moisture in nylon (PA6) using the Metrohm DS2500 Polymer Analyzer. A: Sampling and analysis of PA6. B: Results of the four analyses from NIRS compared to a primary laboratory method along with the Figures of Merit (FOM) for each analysis.

This solution demonstrates that NIR spectroscopy is very suitable for the analysis of multiple parameters in polyamide in less than one minute without sample preparation or using any chemical reagents. Learn more about the procedure in our free Application Note!

The examples shown above refer to PA6 and PA66, but NIRS is undoubtedly a great tool for the rapid screening and QC of polyamides with different chain lengths.

Future installments in this series

This blog is a detailed overview of the use of NIR spectroscopy as the ideal QC tool for Polyamide 6 (PA6) and Polyamide 66 (PA66). The last installment of this blog series will be dedicated to:

 

  • Polyols and Isocyanates to produce Polyurethane (PU)

For more information

About spectroscopy solutions provided by Metrohm, visit our website!

We offer NIRS for lab, NIRS for process, as well as Raman solutions

Post written by Wim Guns, International Sales Support Spectroscopy at Metrohm International Headquarters, Herisau, Switzerland.

Green hydrogen, future fuel: Using potentiostats to develop new catalysts for hydrogen production

Green hydrogen, future fuel: Using potentiostats to develop new catalysts for hydrogen production

Hydrogen – clean and green?

Due to its high gravimetric energy density and zero pollution emission, «green hydrogen» is a clean and sustainable energy carrier which is expected to become one of the fuels of the future. Green hydrogen is produced with renewable energy sources, and it can help to mitigate global warming by using cleaner fuels.

Producing green hydrogen with electrolysis

The most favorable way to produce green hydrogen is via water splitting electrolysis, where water (H2O) is broken down into its counterparts by using a direct electric current. Electrolysis is a sophisticated technique that has been used for many decades in industry. When using this technique for the production of hydrogen, drawbacks are the sluggish reaction kinetics when using inexpensive catalysts or the high costs for more optimal catalysts (e.g. platinum). To produce hydrogen in an efficient and economical manner, the goal for researchers around the world is to develop catalysts for this purpose which are highly active, inexpensive, and stable over long periods.

This article explains in more detail how Metrohm potentiostats can be used to characterize recently developed catalysts for electrochemical hydrogen production.

Electrode reactions

Considering alkaline solutions, the water splitting reaction can be described by two half reactions (Figure 1):

  • Hydrogen Evolution Reaction (HER) at the cathode
  • Oxygen Evolution Reaction (OER) at the anode
Figure 1. Water splitting reaction with the respective half reactions at the cathode and anode.

A critical issue for water splitting is the slow reaction kinetics of the half reactions. To overcome this, electrocatalysts which decrease the activation energy to an acceptable value need to be designed. For an ideal catalyst, a voltage of 1.23 V (at 20 °C and 1013 mbar) would have to be applied to begin hydrogen and oxygen evolution between the electrodes. Unfortunately, when using catalysts in real life situations, voltages above 1.8 V need to be applied.

Requirements for suitable catalysts

Catalysts for the production of green hydrogen from electrochemical water splitting reactions must be (click to go directly to each segment):

The first three properties can be determined by electrochemical measuring techniques using a potentiostat.

Activity

The activity of a catalyst is characterized by three values (click to go directly to each segment):

which can be obtained from the polarization curve as displayed in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Polarization curves of an ideal catalyst (orange) and a real catalyst (dark blue) considering the Hydrogen Evolution Reaction (HER) and Oxygen Evolution Reaction (OER).
Linear polarization

To record a polarization curve (Figure 2), a potentiostat is used in combination with a three-electrode setup. The working electrode is coated with the catalyst which is to be characterized. A typical setup for this purpose is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Potentiostat from Metrohm Autolab combined with a three-electrode setup using a Rotating Disc Electrode (RDE) as working electrode to keep mass transport under defined conditions.

During the measurement, the potential (beginning at a defined initial potential value) is swept to the end potential in a linear fashion over a certain time interval (Figure 4). For HER-catalysts, the potential is swept in the negative direction compared to the initial potential; catalysts used for OER purposes are swept to positive potentials with respect to the initial potential.

The overpotential (η) is a very important parameter to evaluate the activity of the catalyst; its value is affected by the kinetic barrier for the reaction. To overcome this barrier, a higher potential than the thermodynamic potential (1.23 V for OER, or 0 V for HER) – the overpotential – has to be applied to reach the same current densities. The more active the catalyst, the lower the overpotential.

Figure 4. General diagram of linear sweep voltammetry.
Tafel analysis

Aside from the overpotential, the Tafel slope and exchange current density are two additional parameters that help characterize the activity of the catalyst. They can be accessed by plotting the logarithm of the kinetic current density versus overpotential to create the so-called «Tafel plot» (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Tafel plot of OER for two different catalyst materials.

By evaluating the Tafel plot, these two important kinetic parameters can be extracted. One is the Tafel slope (b) which can be expressed by the following equation:

η = a + b log i

  • η = overpotential
  • i = current density

The other parameter is the exchange current density (i0), which can be obtained by extrapolating the current at zero overpotential (Figure 6).   

The Tafel slope is related to the catalytic reaction mechanism in terms of electron-transfer kinetics. For example, faster electrocatalytic reaction kinetics lead to a smaller Tafel slope which is shown in a significant current density increment as a function of the overpotential change (Figure 6).

Koutecký and Levich analysis

The exchange current density (i kin0) describes the charge transfer under equilibrium conditions. A higher exchange current density means a higher charge transfer rate and a lower reaction barrier. As explained earlier in this article, for a better electrocatalyst, a lower Tafel slope and a higher exchange current density are expected.

When performing real experiments, mass transport is the limiting factor at higher overpotentials (Figure 5) which leads to a nonlinear slope of the Tafel plot.

To overcome the undesirable impacts of mass transport (e.g. diffusion), a Rotating Disc Electrode (RDE) (Figure 3) is used. The current signal is therefore measured at different rotation rates. From this data set, it is possible to extract the pure kinetic current (i kin0) according to Koutecký and Levich (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Tafel plot of OER for two different catalysts. The exchange current density (i kin0) is determined by extrapolation to η = 0.

You can find more information about Koutecký and Levich analysis by downloading our free Application Note:  

Impedance analysis

Another measuring technique can be used to determine the reaction kinetics of catalysts: electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS). One of the most important advantages of impedance spectroscopy is that it is a non-destructive and non-invasive measuring technique. This enables consecutive measurements to be performed on the same sample, such as experiments at different temperatures or at different current densities. Also, the aging effects of catalysts can easily be determined this way.

Impedance spectroscopy is an alternating electric current (AC) technique, where an AC voltage with a very small amplitude of a few millivolts is applied to the electrode which responds with an AC current. The values of the applied voltage signal and the values of the corresponding current signal are used to calculate the AC resistance—the impedance. A broad frequency range of several decades is applied and this enables the identification of the kinetic and transport processes that take place on the electrode over different time scales.

Displaying the impedance spectra in a Nyquist plot (Figure 7) exhibits the charge transfer resistance of the reaction as a semicircle. The diameter of this semicircle corresponds to the reaction kinetics: the smaller the diameter, the faster the kinetics of the reaction.

Figure 7. Example of a Nyquist plot of two different catalysts with different activities.

Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy does not only provide kinetic information to researchers, it also gives insight into mass transport effects and conductivity of electrolytes and membranes.

To find out more about EIS, check out our selection of free Application Notes:

Stability

For industrial use, a catalyst should exhibit an extremely low degradation rate. It needs to be stable for many operating hours. At the development stage, stability is an important factor to determine whether a catalyst has the potential for use in practical applications. Stability can be characterized by the changes of the overpotential or current over time by using chronoamperometry, chronopotentiometry, and cyclic voltammetry. These are described in the following sections.
Chrono methods (chronoamperometry and chronopotentiometry)

When using a chronoamperometry method, a constant voltage is applied to the catalyst and the corresponding current signal is sampled and plotted as an i/t curve (Figure 8).

Figure 8. Chronoamperometry measurement of two different catalysts for OER.

Conversely, when using a chronopotentiometry method, a constant current is applied to the catalyst and the voltage response is measured and plotted as an E/t curve (Figure 9). For this measurement, the longer the tested current or potential remains constant, the better the stability of the catalyst.

Figure 9. Chronopotentiometry measurement of two different catalysts for OER.
Cyclic Voltammetry

Cyclic voltammetry is a technique that measures the current density by cycling the potential of the working electrode linearly versus time (Figure 10) . In contrast to linear sweep voltammetry (Figure 4), after the end potential is reached, the potential in a CV experiment is scanned in the opposite direction to return to the initial potential.

Figure 10. Example of a cyclic voltammetry (CV) diagram with one cycle shown.

To determine the degradation rate of a tested catalyst, usually more than 5000 cycles must be executed with a scan rate between 50–100 mV/s. Before and after CV cycling, linear sweep voltammetry (LSV) is used to examine the overpotential shift at a specific current density.

The smaller the change of the overpotential, the better the electrocatalyst’s stability.

Efficiency

The efficiency (η) can be determined by the faradaic efficiency (or coulombic / coulombian efficiency) in terms of experimental results compared to theoretical predictions.

To be able to calculate the theoretical hydrogen volume via Faraday’s Law, the total charge is needed. This value is measured by the potentiostat using the chronocoulometry method which records the total charge over time (Figure 11).

Figure 11. Example of a chronocoulometry plot.

Conclusion

Choosing the right technique for the analysis of activity, stability, and efficiency of catalysts depends on the specific research and development project focus. Luckily, Metrohm offers a wide range of solutions that will meet all kinds of research requirements.

Visit our website

and learn more about our wide range of solutions for electrochemical research!

Post written by Sandro Haug, Product Manager Electrochemistry at Deutsche METROHM GmbH & Co. KG, Filderstadt, Germany.

NIR spectroscopy in the polymer industry: The ideal tool for QC and product screening – Part 3

NIR spectroscopy in the polymer industry: The ideal tool for QC and product screening – Part 3

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET): A brief introduction

PET is a very common plastic, mostly encountered in our lives as PET bottles and as a food packaging material. In this article you will learn how NIR spectroscopy can improve the efficiency of your PET analysis at different steps along the production cycle. Before getting into this, let’s introduce some background information about PET.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a general-purpose thermoplastic polymer which belongs to the polyester family. Polyester resins are known for their excellent combination of properties such as mechanical, thermal, and chemical resistance as well as dimensional stability.

PET is one of the most recycled thermoplastics and has the number 1 as its recycling symbol. Recycled PET can be converted into fibers, fabrics, sheets for packaging and for manufacturing automotive parts. PET is a highly flexible, colorless, and semi-crystalline resin in its natural state. Depending upon how it is processed, it can be semi-rigid to rigid. It exhibits good resistance to impact, moisture, alcohols, and solvents.

The chemical formula of PET is (C10H8O4)n and its molecular structure is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Molecular structure of linear PET.

In addition to linear PET, there is also a branched version of the polymer. Branched PET is typically mixed with a small percent of isophthalic acid (C8H₆O4), because purified isophthalic acid (PIA, Figure 2) reduces the crystallinity of PET, serving to improve its clarity and increase the productivity of bottle manufacturing processes.

Diethylene glycol (DEG) as an additive also reduces the rate of crystallization of PET when crystallizing from the melt, isothermally and dynamically.

Figure 2. Molecular structure of isophthalic acid.
The key properties and advantages of PET resin are numerous:
  • very strong and lightweight, and therefore easy and efficient to transport
  • has good gas (oxygen, carbon dioxide) and moisture barrier properties, meaning low gas permeability (particularly against CO2)
  • exhibits excellent electrical insulating properties
  • broad range of use temperature (-60 to 130 °C)
  • high heat distortion temperature (HDT)
  • suitable for transparent application purposes
  • practically shatter-resistant – PET does not break or fracture and is used to replace glass in some applications
  • recyclable material
  • transparent to microwave radiation
  • very resistant to alcohols, aliphatic hydrocarbons, oils, greases, and diluted acids
  • moderately resistant to diluted alkalis, aromatic and halogenated hydrocarbons
  • PET is approved as safe for contact with foods and beverages by the FDA, Health Canada, EFSA, and other health agencies

What is polyethylene terephthalate (PET) used to make?

Polyethylene terephthalate is used in several types of packaging applications as shown in Figure 3. Due to its strength, light weight, and many other attractive properties, PET excels as a food packaging material.

Figure 3. PET is an ideal choice for many food packaging applications due to its strength to weight ratio.

Polyester makes up nearly two-thirds of synthetic fibers produced. There are many different types of polyester, but the type most often produced for use in textiles is PET. When used in a fabric, it is most often referred to as «polyester» or «poly» (Figure 4). This material costs very little to produce, which is the primary driver for its use in the textile industry.

Approximately 60% of the global PET production is used to make fibers for textiles while about 30% is used to make bottles for various purposes. Its ability to be recycled is especially attractive for manufacturers looking to save costs and operate in a greener manner.

Figure 4. PET makes up a significant portion of produced polyester fabric.

In the electronics industry, PET is chosen to replace less ideal materials due to its excellent electrical insulating properties and resistance to distortion even at high temperatures. PET is also used to manufacture many parts in the automotive industry (Figure 5).

Figure 5. PET is often used in the manufacturing of various automotive parts.

NIRS as a tool to assess the quality of PET

For over 30 years, near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) has been an established method for fast and reliable quality control within the PET industry. Despite this, many producers still do not consistently consider the implementation of NIRS in their QA/QC labs. Limited experience regarding application possibilities or a general hesitation about implementing new methods are some of the reasons behind this.

The advantages of using NIR spectroscopy for QA/QC are numerous. One major advantage of NIRS is the determination of multiple parameters in just 30 seconds with no sample preparation! The non-invasive light-matter interaction used by NIRS, influenced by physical as well as chemical sample properties, makes NIRS a suitable method for the determination of several critical quality parameters in these polymers and many more.

In the remainder of this article, a short overview of PET applications is presented, followed by available turnkey solutions for PET, developed according the NIRS implementation guidelines of ASTM E1655-17.

Did you miss the first parts in this series? Find them here!

For more detailed information about NIRS as a secondary technique, read our previous blog posts on this subject.

Applications and parameters for PET with NIRS

During production of PET it is important to check certain parameters to guarantee the quality. These parameters include the diethylene glycol content, isophthalic acid content, intrinsic viscosity (ASTM D4603), and the acid number (AN). Determination of these parameters is a lengthy and challenging process due to the limited solubility of the sample and the need to use different analytical methods.

The most relevant applications for NIRS analysis of PET are listed in Table 1.

Table 1Available application notes for use of NIR for PET
Polymer Parameter Related NIRS Application Notes
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

Diethylene glycol, Intrinsic Viscosity, Acid number, Isophthalic acid

AN-NIR-023

Where can NIRS be used in the production process of PET?

Figure 6 shows the individual production steps from the plastic producer via plastic compounder and plastic converter to the plastic parts producer. The first step in which near-infrared lab instruments can be used is when the pure polymers like PET are produced, and their purity needs to be confirmed. NIRS is also a very useful technique during the next step where polymers are compounded into intermediate products to be used for further processing.

Figure 6. Illustration of the polyethylene terephthalate production chain.

Easy implementation of NIR spectroscopy for plastic producers

Metrohm has extensive expertise with analysis of PET and offers a turnkey solution in the form of the DS2500 Polymer Analyzer. This instrument is a ready-to-use solution to determine multiple quality parameters in PET.

Figure 7. Turnkey solution for PET analysis with the Metrohm DS2500 Polymer Analyzer.

Application example:

Pre-calibrations available for the PET industry on the DS2500 Polymer Analyzer

Due to the limited solubility of polyethylene terephthalate and the need to use several different analytical methods, the determination of the parameters listed in Table 2 is a lengthy and challenging process with conventional laboratory techniques.

Table 2. Primary method vs. NIRS for the determination of various quality parameters in PET samples.
Parameter Primary method Time to result (primary method) NIRS benefits
Diethylene Glycol content

Extraction + HPLC-MS

45 min. preparation + 40 min. HPLC-MS All four parameters are measured simultaneously within a minute, without sample preparation or the need of any chemical reagents
Isophthalic acid content Dissolve + HPLC 45 min. preparation + 40 min. HPLC
Intrinsic viscosity Dissolve + Viscometer 90 min. preparation + 1 min. Viscometer
Acid number Dissolve + Titration 90 min. preparation + 10 min. Titrator

The NIRS prediction models created for PET are based on a large collection of real product spectra and is developed in accordance with ASTM E1655-17 Standard practices for Infrared Multivariate Quantitative Analysis. For more detailed information on this topic, download the free white paper.

To learn more about pre-calibrations for PET, download our brochure and visit our website.

The result of this turnkey solution for rapid non-destructive determination of the key quality parameters for PET listed in Table 2  is shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8. Turnkey solution for diethylene glycol, isophthalic acid, intrinsic viscosity and acid number in PET using the Metrohm DS2500 Polymer Analyzer. A: Sampling and analysis of PET granulate. B: Results of the four analyses from NIRS compared to a primary laboratory method along with the Figures of Merit (FOM) for each analysis.

This solution demonstrates the feasibility of NIR spectroscopy for the analysis of multiple parameters in PET in less than one minute without sample preparation or using any chemical reagents.  Learn more about the procedure in our free Application Note!

Future installments in this series

This article is a detailed overview of the use of NIR spectroscopy as the ideal QC tool for the analysis of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Future installments in this series will be dedicated to:

 

  • Polyamide (PA)
  • Polyols and Isocyanates to produce Polyurethane (PU)

For more information

About spectroscopy solutions provided by Metrohm, visit our website!

We offer NIRS for lab, NIRS for process, as well as Raman solutions

Post written by Wim Guns, International Sales Support Spectroscopy at Metrohm International Headquarters, Herisau, Switzerland.