My Pyrolysis Polymer Bible

Martin Perkins

9th April 2019

CRO, Environment, GC-MS, Polymer, Pyrograms, Pyrolysates, Pyrolysis, Residual Monomers, Synthetic, Thermograms,


Pyrolysis-GC/MS – a powerful yet under utilised technique when it comes to polymer analysis.

In my previous life at CRO environment, pyrolysis GC-MS was a task that almost always fell to me and I know from bitter experience how tricky the interpretation can be. Out of the ordinary samples would see hours of head scratching, hair pulling and tea drinking, sometimes with little reward.

That was until I found theĀ Pyrolysis-GC/MS Data Book of Synthetic Polymers.

While on a recent training day with GERSTEL, I was reminded of this extremely helpful resource and the trouble it saved me. I figured that if it helps one analyst half as much as me, it’d be well worth a hundred words in a blog post.

Many of you looking to identify polymeric samples will know of the many benefits and occasional pitfalls of using pyrolysis-GC/MS. The technique uses multi-step analysis to identify residual monomers and solvents along with potential additives (assuming they’re GC amenable). It also identifies volatile impurities before fully pyrolysing to identify the polymer types present.

Pyrolysis is extremely reproducible, enabling laboratories to use it as a fingerprinting technique for quality control and forensics applications.

But what if you want to take it further and analyse unknown samples, like competitor materials or conduct failure analysis? In my experience, pyrograms were sometimes extremely complicated and seemed to make absolutely no sense.

Enter the reference bible.

I cannot overstate how useful I found this. The reference data includes pyrograms, thermograms and MS of major pyrolysates for no fewer than 250 polymers. Well worth the investment if your experience is anything like mine.

You can see a preview to the book on Google Books. If you do any work with pyrolysis-GC/MS, I strongly suggest you have a look before hunting down your own copy.

Do you have any similarly useful cheat codes that have helped you so profoundly? Please let us know your tips and experiences with Pyrolysis-GC/MS.

For information on how we can help with polymeric sampling beyond great book recommendations, please get in touch.