Thermal analysis and calorimetry are ways to measure temperature changes and a material’s reaction to those changes. Thermal analysis is a method used to measure properties of a material at different temperatures. Many characteristics of a sample can be measured as a function of temperature, including volume, mass, dimension, optical properties, gaseous decomposition products, heat difference, and temperature difference. To perform thermal analysis, both the temperature and sample environment are controlled. The temperature is steadily increased or decreased and tests are done at a series of temperature points to see if or how a material is changing.
Calorimetry is used to measure the heat released into or absorbed from the environment during a chemical reaction. There are three main classes of calorimeters: isothermal, which uses a heat sink to keep the reaction environment at a constant temperature as the reaction occurs; adiabatic, which allows reactions to change the environment and the change in temperature is measured as time goes on; and temperature scanning, in which the difference in the amount of heat required to increase the temperature of the sample being tested and a reference sample is determined.
Thermal analysis and calorimetry are used in electronics industries to help determine and maintain stability, safety, and quality control of their products. Other applications include:
Key things to keep in mind when shopping around for your thermal solutions:
When choosing a thermal analysis or calorimetry tool you must consider which properties of the material being tested need to be measured. Each characteristic has its own method of analysis, although there are some instances in which two properties can be measured at once, like mass and heat difference or mass and gaseous decomposition products. Other considerations include the temperature range that can be produced and whether there will be actual testing of components or thermal modeling using thermal analysis software.
Current thermal analysis and calorimetry trends:
New methods and uses for thermal analysis and calorimetry are being developed. For instance, nanoscale thermal analysis (nanoTA) has only been available to analyze soft polymers, but a new technique that uses an atomic force microscope coupled with an electric current and a magnetic field has allowed researchers to do nanoTA on rigid materials smaller than 100 nanometers. One new use for calorimetry is determining the biomass in soil by measuring the heat produced by the microbes that make up the biomass. Thermal analysis and calorimetry will continue to be important as they aid in investigating new energy sources.
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