Are You in the Market for a Thermal Analyzer?


Pharmaceutical and polymer industries are increasingly interested in both TGA and DSC. Drug companies use these techniques to test for drug stability and crystalline state (or lack thereof). For example, some medicines work better in a particular crystalline polymorph, and others are more effective in an amorphous state. Polymer companies are interested in measuring numerous properties associated with heat, such as mechanical dimensions and stability, chemical stability, and physical states (e.g., glass transition) related to mechanical performance.

Thermal analysis is not only about high temperatures. Some instruments have a cooling function that enables monitoring of low-temperature events such as glass transition in polymers.

Type of materials respondents work with that require them to perform thermal analysis:

Polymers 33%
Pharmaceutical materials 18%
Metals 13%
Foods 10%
Chemicals 8%
Environmental materials 5%
Ceramics 3%
Other 10%

Any property that alters with temperature change can be associated with some form of thermal analysis. This technique, also called calorimetry, correlates temperature-dependent events to physical characteristics of a sample including: physicochemical structure, reduction, oxidation, evolved gases, decomposition, elongation, brittleness, strength, structure, and mass. Every industry concerned with the relationship between energy and how their products behave in the real world uses thermal analyzers. Thermal measurements provide food companies with values for caloric (energy) content, materials manufacturers with phase transition temperatures, and academic researchers with insights into phases of matter. Every phase of a product’s life cycle, from development to manufacturing, quality control and release involves thermal measurements.

Thermal analysis works best when investigators know what they’re looking for, or at least know the identity of the sample. To reduce that uncertainty, some thermal analyzers incorporate a spectrophotometer in the mix. These techniques, known collectively as thermo-optical analysis, include thermospectrometry, thermorefractometry, thermoluminescence, and thermomicroscopy. All work on the principle that a sample’s interaction with light changes with temperature. Numerous discrete and continuous thermally relevant events can be measured this way, including crystallization, melting, corrosion, phase transitions, drying, and polymorphism.

Vendors offer a very broad range of analyzers. Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) is by far the number-one seller, with Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA) coming in second. The two methods, moreover, are complementary, measuring fine or subtle properties and gross properties, respectively.

Type(s) of thermal analysis respondents are currently using or planning to purchase for their lab.

Differential Scanning Calorimetry 24%
Thermogravimetric Analysis 23%
Differential Thermal Analysis 13%
Dynamic Mechanical Analysis 8%
Thermomechanical Analysis 7%
Evolved Gas Analysis 6%
Dilatometry 4%
Thermo-optical Analysis 4%
Dielectric Thermal Analysis 3%
Other 8%

Vendors also offer Simultaneous Thermal Analyzers (STA) that combine TGA and DSC in a single instrument, a high-pressure DSC, and an instrument that allows users to swap out TGA and DSC cells.

Fifty-one percent of the respondents are currently performing or planning to perform Simultaneous Thermal Analysis (STA) in their labs.

Currently performing STA 16%
Not currently performing STA, but would like to use this method 35%
No, this method does not work for our analysis 49%

The top ten features / factors that influence our respondents in buying a thermal analyzer include:

Performance / Heat flow measurements (resolution, sensitivity, precision and accuracy) 100%
Wide temperature range 92%
Versatility – able to measure large and small sample material 86%
Safety of operators 81%
Availability of accessories and replacement parts 79%
Low operating/ownership cost 72%
Low maintenance/easy to clean 68%
Ease of use (calibration and adjustments) 67%
Service and support 63%
Warranty 50%
Categories: Surveys

Published In

Is the Rollercoaster Ride Over? Magazine Issue Cover
Is the Rollercoaster Ride Over?

Published: March 1, 2012

Cover Story

Is the Roller Coaster Ride Over?

The laboratory industry enjoyed several years of robust growth from the late 1990s until 2003. Record research and development (R&D) investments by the biopharmaceutical industry, in combination with the doubling of the U.S. National Institutes budget, allowed for continual double-digit growth rates.