Formulations in everyday materials

Many of the products that we use every day, such as medicines and foods, contain a number of substances mixed together. Each substance in the mixture is chosen for a particular purpose.

For example, here is the label from a medicine used to treat colds and flu:

An example of the label on a packet of medicine.Label of a cold and flu medicine

When a manufacturer produces a medicine, it is important that the substances it contains are mixed together in the correct quantities. This is important because otherwise the medicine will not be at the right strength to be effective.

The manufacturer will follow a recipe to make sure of this. In chemical terms, the recipe to make substances in industry is called a formulation.

Examples of formulations

Here are some examples of where formulations are used in everyday products:

PaintPigments or dyesGive the paint its colour
PaintSolventMakes the paint a liquid so that it can be used more easily
PerfumeFragrancesGive the perfume its characteristic smell
PerfumeSolventBring all the odorants together in a single liquid
SunscreenUltraviolet filterTo block out harmful radiation from the sun
SunscreenMoisturiserTo keep the skin hydrated
Processed foodsIngredientsChosen for the food being made
Processed foodsSaltTo enhance the flavour of the food
Processed foodsPreservativesTo increase the shelf life of the food
Move on to Test