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Chemical Analysis and Chemical Testing
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Unknown Chemical Substance Sampling

Chemical analysis affects most people, most of the time, throughout their life. Think of computers, agriculture, medicine, cars, toilet paper, fuel, toothpaste, medicine, food stuffs, clothes, detergents, roads, houses, our environment, etc … All have been or will be subjected to chemical analysis at some stage of their lives. The importance of chemical analysis and chemical testing can not be underestimated and has literally become a necessity since and before its invention.
Chemical analysis it rarely performed just for the sake of knowing, it is embedded and integrated into everyone's life whether or not the public know, care or worry about the fact. Chemical analysis and chemical testing does however ensure quality, productivity, safety, consistency, control and many other factors affecting everyday life.

Chemical testing can be divided into a few overlapping broad fields, to name most:

  • Inorganic
  • Organic
  • Qualitative
  • Quantitative
  • Biological
  • Wet or "classical"
  • Instrumental
Samples types could literally be anything, i.e. wood, soil, water, plastic, gas, cloth, liver tissue, etc …. When analyzing a substance the normal questions that come up and normally in this order are:
  • What are the samples composed of (qualitative analysis) and how much of each substance is present (quantitative analysis).
Chemical analysis and chemical testing can take from 1 minute to a few months depending on type and depth required. Another important question is the accuracy required for an analysis or chemical test. This often affects time and cost.
For example: % copper in ore. The result could be reported as 15 +-1% or 15.21 +-0.05% depending on various analysis factors and the required accuracy or rather, the confidence limits. The term "confidence limit" should be used because if the actual concentration of the copper is 15.03 +-0.02%, then the former concentration reported (15 +-1%) would be, technically, more "accurate" as accuracy refers to the agreement of the actual or accepted value. But, which result would you rather accept or report. Normally results are reported without these confidence limits. Chemical analysis is never "absolute" and always limited to statistical variations and statistics is a huge part of chemical analysis.

For chemical analysis or chemical test to be absolute, one would need to be able to "see" each and every atom. As an example there are 602 300 000 000 000 000 000 000 atoms in only 12g of pure Carbon, count them and also count all the other elements present in sample .Clearly this is Impossible, and one can see why statistics play a vital role in chemical testing.

One more critical question is the detection limit required.
A substance (be it compound or element) can never be said not to exist in a sample. It can only be reported as less than a certain detection limit which is limited by the instrument, method or technique.

Ensuring accurate chemical analysis or chemical testing is only part of the puzzle. Interpretation of results is just as important. Clearly, it's one thing to just know the concentrations of certain chemicals in various fertilizer samples but another to know how to utilize the data and to blend or mix them into workable, a to z customized, hydroponic nutrient solution.

SMI Analytical can assist you with both Chemical Analysis and Interpretation of chemical data obtained in chemical tests.

Some Common Abbreviations for Analytical Techniques Used in Chemical testing and Material Characterization


Many chemical reports and chemical assays are often filled with abbreviations as to methods used in analysis, Unless one is a chemist they mean nothing to the average person in the street.

The following are typically the available instrumental analysis terms used in a modern laboratory.
AAS Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy
AEM Analytical Electron Microscopy
AES Auger Electron Spectrometry
AFM Atomic Force Microscopy
AMS Accelerator Mass Spectrometry
APCI Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Ionization
CE Capillary Electrophoresis
CI Chemical Ionization
DSC Differential Scanning Calorimetry
DMTA Differential Mechanical Thermal Analysis
DTA Differential Thermal Analysis
ECD Electron Capture Detection
EDS Energy Dispersive Spectrometry
EDXA Energy Dispersive X-ray Analysis
EI Electron Ionization
EM Electron Microscopy
EPMA Electron Probe Microanalysis
ESCA Electron Spectroscopy for Chemical Analysis
ESI Electrospray Ionization
FAB Fast Atom Bombardment
FID Flame Ionization Detection
FT-IR Fourier Transform Infra-red Spectrometry
FT-NMR Fourier Transform Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
GC Gas Chromatography
GPC Gel Permeation Chromatography
HPLC High Performance Liquid Chromatography
IC Ion Chromatography
ICP Inductively Coupled Plasma
IR Infra-red Spectroscopy/Reflectography
LC Liquid Column Chromatography
LSC Liquid Scintillating Spectrometry
MALDI Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization
MS Mass Spectrometry
NMR Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
PID Photo Ionization Detection
PIXE Particle Induced X-Ray Emission
PLM Polarized Light Microscopy
PyGC Pyrolysis Gas Chromatography
PyMS Pyrolysis Mass Chromatography
RBS Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry
SAM Scanning Auger Microscopy
SEM Scanning Electron Microscopy
SIMS Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry
STM Scanning Tunneling Microscopy
TEM Transmission Electron Microscopy
TG Thermal Gravimetry
TGA Thermo-Gravimetric Analysis
TLC Thin Layer Chromatography
TMA Thermo-Mechanical Analysis
UV-VIS Ultraviolet-Visible Range Spectroscopy
WDS Wavelength Dispersive Spectrometry
XPS X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy
XRD X-Ray Diffraction
XRF X-Ray Fluorescence

Some Basic Chemical Concepts

All matter on earth is made up of a combination of atoms from various elements.

  • An atom is the smallest particle of an element that retains the properties of that element.
  • An element is a form of matter that cannot be broken down into simpler forms by ordinary means.
  • A compound is a combination of elements
  • The smallest unit of a compound that retains the chemical properties of that compounds is called a molecule
  • Consider the molecular formula of a compound such as ammonium phosphate, a common fertilizer cloud write its formula with elements in alphabetical order as H12N3O4P, but you will more commonly see it as (NH4)3PO4 . This latter version shows you immediately that the compound is composed of different chemical compounds, namely NH4 Ammonium and PO4 Phosphate. There are many common compounds of atoms in chemistry, and one usually keeps the atoms of these units together when writing formulas.
    Disclaimer: The liability of SMI ANALYTICAL is limited to the cost of analysis. SMI ANALYTICAL indemnifies itself from any legal action which may be instituted against it due to supplied data. SMI ANALYTICAL accepts no responsibility whatsoever for any results released, however used. No part of this document may reproduced in part or in full unless permission from SMI ANALYTICAL is granted in writing. This document may not be altered in any way whatsoever and is printed without correction.

    Analytical Chemistry Links

    Chemistry Tutor
    Some Background about X-Ray Diffraction
    University of Cambridge - Analytical Chemistry Journals
    The Clay Minerals Society - Online Courses, Lectures, and Labs
    Sheffield Chemdex is the directory of analytical chemistry on the World-Wide Web

    Analytical Lab

    SMI Analytical Laboratory Services / Chemical Laboratory Services specializes in quantitative X-Ray diffraction Chemical tests, chemical testing, chemical analysis, chemical lab, analytical lab, analytical laboratory, chemical, chemical laboratory, chemical assay, quantitative chemistry, analytical chemistry, analytical chemist, South Africa, in, near, site:, =, '.co.za', SA, za, 'loc:za' site:, =, '.co.za', SA, RSA, za, 'loc:za'
    “TiO2+” (aq) + 2H2 + e = Ti3+ + H2O     E0=ca.0.1V

    Chemical Testing | Analytical Chemistry Services | Chemical Analysis | South Africa