Are You in the Market for A... Thermal Analyzer?


Thermal analysis is the broad category of at least 20 techniques that measure some fundamental property of matter as a result of adding heat. For example, dilatometry measures volume changes upon heating, thermomechanical analysis quantifies the change in dimension of a sample as a function of temperature, and thermo-optical analysis detects changes in optical properties on heating or cooling. This discussion applies mostly to two techniques, differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), although many of the ideas presented here apply to other types of thermal analysis. DSC and the related micro-DSC measure the amount of heat required to change the temperature of a sample. DSC is most often used with materials that undergo phase changes. Homogeneous or nonhomogeneous materials that melt or freeze, or that undergo transformation from one solid form to another, are excellent candidates for DSC. Notable examples include the glass transition temperature of polymers and the interconversion of crystalline polymorphs in the pharmaceutical industry. Approximately 60 percent of thermal analyses involve DSC. TGA is often used to quantify residual solvent or moisture content of a sample (for example, in foods and pharmaceuticals). A related technique, evolved gas analysis, analyzes gas decomposition products.

The types of analyses our readers are performing or planning to perform in their labs:

  Currently Performing Planning to Perfom
Dielectric Thermal Analysis 3% 5%
Differential Thermal Analysis 9% 6%
Differential Scanning Calorimetry 18% 5%
Dilatometry 1% 1%
Dynamic Mechanical Analysis 3% 3%
Evolved Gas Analysis 5% 2%
Thermogravimetric Analysis 13% 7%
Thermomechanical Analysis 5% 1%
Thermo-optical Analysis 4% 1%
Other 6% 2%

Our readers work with the following materials which require them to perform thermal analysis:

Organics such as lubricants, pharmaceuticals, paints, adhesives, etc. 29%
Polymers 26%
Minerals, inorganic chemicals, and other inorganics 19%
Metals / alloys 10%
Other 10%
Ceramic / glass / building materials 5%

The physical states of the materials our readers analyze:

Powder 28%
Liquid 20%
Pellet 13%
Thin Film 12%
Fiber 10%
Paste 8%
Gel 6%
Foam 4%

The type of information our readers require from their thermal analyses:

Quantitative 24%
Qualitative 9%
A mixture of both 67%

Simultaneous Thermal Analysis (STA) combines the benefits of thermal analysis and differential scanning calorimetry (measurement of the energy flow to or from the sample, quantifying the changes as exothermic or endothermic) into a single experiment. Seven percent of the respondents are currently performing STA in their research and another 40 percent are planning to use STA within the next 12 months.

Survey respondents’ top ten factors/features they look for in a thermal analyzer:

Reliability 80%
Ease of use 67%
Service and support 58%
Low maintenance/easy to clean 54%
Price 54%
Safety 51%
Warranty 49%
Low operating cost/ cost of ownership 48%
Ease of installation 39%
Versatility 39%


For more information on thermal analyzers, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit

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Published: October 1, 2012

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