Identifying Unknown Materials

SOCOTEC has established itself as a leading specialist in successfully examining and identifying unknown materials such as solids, solvents, deposits, oils and dusts. We provide key information for failure investigations, manufacturing issues and Health & Safety concerns within a wide range of industry sectors.

Our rapid identification methods allow you the peace of mind that contaminants will be classified swiftly, reducing process disruption.
Our testing services are frequently used in the following industries:


  • Foreign objects in foods/medical products
  • Unknown residues on surfaces
  • Machinery problems/failures
  • Unknown polymers
  • Waste
  • Unknown material deliveries
  • Unknown deposits in landfill
  • Construction
  • Unknown materials/dusts
  • Petrochemical
  • Unknown deposits in fuels/oils/coolants
  • Premature failure of fuel/oil filters

Client-focused Approach

Our expert scientists carry out a full client consultation before designing a personalised testing suite to identify your unknown material. SOCOTEC employs a diverse range of selective techniques to characterise the sample, including:

  • Optical Microscopy – initial identification
  • GC/MS – Gas Chromatography with Mass Spectrometry
  • FTIR – Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy
  • SEM/EDX – Scanning Electron Microscopy with Energy Dispersive X-ray analysis

After determining the overall composition of the sample, our scientists document a full interpretive report with conclusions.

Read our blog on Identifying the Unknown through Chemical Investigation 

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