Chemical Analysis Laboratory

In a chemical analysis laboratory, chemists determine the make-up of different materials. A material’s chemistry is what it comprised of, how it behaves by itself and how it reacts in other circumstances. Chemists also separate and identify chemicals in compounds, which is chemical analysis. That’s most often done in a clean laboratory environment by lab scientists in white coats,and protective safety glasses and gloves.

What is the purpose of chemical analysis?

Chemical analysis is important to determine a material’s durability, stability and its ability to be machined for an intended purpose. A chemical analysis laboratory takes on all types of alloys and analyses recycled materials, also, to determine whether the material would be appropriate for renewable energy use, for instance.

Materials tested include the following.

Metals—both chemical and mechanical tests are performed on metals

Polymers—Testing on polymers, synthetic organic materials used as plastics or resins, includes impact, tensile (stretch capability) and thermo-mechanical analysis (TMA).

Ceramics—Studies include chemical composition, x-ray diffraction analysis, mechanical testing, and materialography (including failure analysis and microhardness) for:

  • Energy industry
  • Aerospace
  • Biometrical
  • Electronics manufacturers
  • Dental industry

Coatings—Tests include those for composition, corrosion testing for weathering and salt spray, X-ray diffraction and mechanical testing for types of fatigue, creep, hardness and stress rupture. Coatings analysis is often used for:

  • Aerospace
  • Medical devices
  • Energy
  • Automotive
  • Oil and gas

This variety of compounds requires a range of quantitative and qualitative analytical techniques. What is the difference between quantitative and qualitative analysis? Here’s an overview of each.

Qualitative Analysis

Qualitative analysis answers the question, “What is present?” It is used usually to identify an unknown substance. To identify it, scientists usually only test one substance, called an analyte, at a time. The differentiation characteristic (its unique property) is identified.


Those can be such qualities as solvency or whether it absorbs or reflects light. Once scientists identify the unique qualities, they can then compare and contrast to show similar or different qualities with other results. There are two basic types of qualitative analysis:

Organic Analysis—This is the more complex type of qualitative analysis, as there are thousands of known organic compounds (Beilstein reference library). Instruments commonly used include: gas-liquid chromatography, electrophoresis, and infrared, ultraviolet and mass spectrometry.

Inorganic analysis—This refers to non-carbon chemistry: metals, metalloid, hydroxyl, carbonate and hydrogen ions. Tests used include: flame, pH and manual titration.

Quantitive Analysis

Quantitive analysis is when scientists determine how much of a particular chemical is in a compound. The resulting data are contrasted to show differences with other qualities in the substance being studied.

Tools of the trade

The following are some examples of tools used in quantitative and qualitative analysis:

  • Spectrometry
  • Chromatography
  • Capillary electrophoresis
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Nuclear Magnetic resonance
  • Scanning electron microscopes
  • X-ray crystallography
  • Scanning electron microscopy (SEM)
  • Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR)

The chemical analysis laboratory issues a final report listing the elements scientists have identified.