Polymer Case Study: Environmental Stress Cracking of a Polycarbonate Part

Conveyor devices transport goods from one location to another while minimizing error, lowering risk, and reducing physical strain and labor costs. They can be used in grocery stores, for moving walkways and to transport heavy or bulking items.

Case Study

A company was investigating a rise in cracking of polycarbonate (PC) components used in a conveyor device that was frequently sanitized with disinfectants. The components were reportedly exposed to a disinfectant product containing quaternary ammonium compounds, which have been known to cause environmental stress cracking (ESC) of polycarbonate materials under certain conditions.


Fractography was performed on the failed components to assess the failure mode based on the crack morphology and fracture surface features. The components were severely embrittled and the fracture surface features were consistent with ESC. Additionally, the components were extracted with a solvent and screened by LC-MS for non-volatile organic compounds.


Based on the mass spectral signal, ions consistent with a benzyl quaternary ammonium compound were detected, confirming PC components were in contact with a known stress cracking agent.

Failure Analysis of Polymers ​

For more than 50 years, scientists and engineers at Eurofins EAG have investigated and resolved product failures for clients. Our team of experts identify key failure indicators and follow them to the root cause.

Polymeric Materials Evaluated at EAG​

Failure analysis of plastics, thermosets, and rubber materials is commonly performed on finished products and typically involve comparative analysis between failed and non-failed samples. Once the potential root cause is identified, experiments can be designed and conducted to test the hypothesis and recreate the failure in the laboratory. Eurofins EAG can evaluate a variety of polymer types, including:

  • Raw materials in polymer formulations
  • Adhesives (heat/moisture/UV-cured, silicones, epoxies, acrylates)
  • Coatings (functional or decorative)
  • Thermoplastics, thermosets, thermoplastic elastomers, composites
  • Molded, extruded, cast components

Eurofins EAG Laboratories offers a full suite of analytical techniques to evaluate the identity, composition, morphology, topography, and rheology of polymeric materials and components.

  • Chromatography: GC, GC-MS, HPLC, IC, LC-MS, Pyrolysis GC-MS, HS/TD/SPME GC-MS
  • Inorganic Identification and Quantification: ICP-MS, ICP-OES, SEM-EDS, XRD, XRF
  • Physical Testing: Contact Angle, Mechanical Testing, Rheometry, Viscometry
  • Spectroscopy: Ellipsometry, FTIR, NIR, NMR, Raman, UV-Vis
  • Surface Analysis: Auger, SEM, TOF-SIMS, XPS
  • Surface Metrology: AFM, Nanoindentation, Profilometry
  • Thermal Analysis: DMA, DSC, RGA, TGA, TGA-IR, TGA-MS, TMA

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