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What Does a Formulation Chemist Do?

By C.B. Fox
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A formulation chemist works with combinations of chemicals that are stable around one another. Unlike other chemists, who often combine reactive chemicals in order to create new compounds out of a number of chemical reactants, formulation chemists combine a number of different chemicals together with the expectation that there will be no chemical reaction. One of the main things that this type of chemist does is to combine ingredients at manufacturing plants that make things such as cosmetics, paints, and detergents. Alternatively, these chemists may create new combinations of non-reactive ingredients.

In theory, any ingredients that a formulation chemist mixes together could be extracted back out of a product. The combination of table salt and water, for example, results in a product known as salt water. There is not any chemical reaction between the salt and the water so these molecules remain intact when they are mixed together. Boiling off the water will leave the salt behind, allowing the ingredients in salt water to be separated from one another. Any ingredients that a formulation chemist mixes together will combine in this way, dispersing throughout one another but remaining chemically intact, making it possible to separate them from one another, though it may be extremely difficult to do so.

There are a number of different industries that employ formulation chemists. Some of the more common of these are industries that make paint, ink, cosmetic products, soaps and detergents, and pesticides. Gasoline manufacturers may also employ formulation chemists in order to add ingredients into gasoline, such as ethanol and benzene, that may help gasoline burn more cleanly.

One of the main job responsibilities of a formulation chemist is to combine ingredients. These chemists measure out ingredients and mix them together until a product that is relatively homogenized has been created. They may rely on machines to measure and mix large quantities of product and may also test products to make sure that the ratios are correct and that the mixtures are up to the manufacturer's standards.

There are also formulation chemist positions that are more experimental in nature. These chemists may experiment with new combinations of ingredients and the adjustment of existing formulas in hopes of improving them. Though these chemists will not work with reactive chemicals, they are expected to have a good understanding of chemicals that react with one another so that they do not accidentally combine reactive chemicals.

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