Most of our clients consider ink within a particular narrow field, be it historical documents, commercial printing, consumer products, or artwork (to name a few); however, due to the complexity of ink chemistry and the ubiquity of inks throughout both modern society and human history, the range of questions concerning “ink” one may encounter is enormous.  Some of the major categories of ink analysis conducted at Microtrace are broken down below:



While ink manufacturers are aware of every component within a product they are formulating, the authenticity of historical documents, collectibles, and paintings can hinge on the identity of the ink or paint used to prepare them. Identification of the binder, pigments, or additives to the writing or printing can provide scientific evidence for the authenticity (or not) of a piece.  These analyses are conducted using a combination of light and electron microscopy, alternative light sources, vibrational spectroscopy (Raman and FTIR), and chromatography (pyrolysis GC-MS and thin layer chromatography)



Forensic ink comparisons utilize a variety of methods including color, response to alternative light sources, ink chemistry, and the identification of dyes (among others).  Our scientists have conducted research in the areas of ink extraction and the separation of colorants by chromatographic methods.


Failure Analysis and Formulation

The successful application of inks to a variety of substrates ranging from paper to plastic to irregular surfaces requires careful formulation.  Even with proper formulation, changes in ink composition due to variations or substitutions in the supply chain can cause unintended consequences including delamination, degradation, or other unexpected failures.  Investigations and lawsuits involving ink failure can be complex, requiring consideration of many variables ranging from environmental exposure to surface preparation and formulation.  Microscopy and microchemical analysis can often provide a definitive, scientific basis for understanding the root cause of failure, and Microtrace scientists have worked with attorneys, ink companies, and end users to unravel these issues.


Related standardized methods: ASTM D2067, F2252

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