Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) is a thermal analysis technique which characterizes the heat flow between a sample and its environment, corresponding to distinct thermal transitions in the material.

The amount of heat necessary to gradually increase (or decrease) the temperature of the sample is measured against a reference blank, and the difference between the resultant curves provides insight into exothermic and endothermic processes taking place in the sample as a function of temperature. Using an enormity of work already established in this technique, one can draw comparisons between experimental and literature values to establish the material’s thermal properties.


DSC is most widely used as a quality control assay in numerous industries, including: polymers / materials science, food science, organic chemistry, device manufacturing, agriculture, electronics and semiconductors development.

Within these, and many more fields, DSC enables researchers to determine various thermodynamic properties of a material, including (for thermoplastic materials) the sample’s thermal history.For formula and process optimization, DSC can serve as a metric ofcuring properties, and it has additional applications in organic and inorganic chemistry, for which it can be used to assay reaction kinetics as a function of temperature, as well as heat evolved or consumed during reaction.


  • Glass transition temperature (Tg): temperature at which an amorphous polymer transitions from solid to liquid.
  • Melting point (Tm):the temperature at which a crystalline solid material will become liquid. Indicative of polymorphic specie ID, purity, and heat history / polymer processing.
  • Heat capacity (Cp): amount of energy a unit of matter can hold; coincides with the required heat transfer to increase the temperature of a sample by 1 °C. Can be correlated to processing conditions analysis and efficiency metrics.
  • Temperatures of other thermal transitions:
    • Eutectic points (solid-state transitions)
    • Crystalline phase transitions between polymorphs
    • Chemical reactions which do not produce volatiles


  • What it is great for:
    • Rapid and straightforward data collection
    • Minimal sample prep required, accommodates a diversity of solid samples
    • Only a few milligrams of material are needed due to high instrument sensitivity
  • Limitations:
    • Technique is not optimal for volatile samples, or for experiments involving thermal degradation (e.g. oxidation analyses, solvent loss, etc.)

Instruments We Use for DSC

TA Instruments DSC-2920

The DSC-2920 is TA Instrument’s high-performance differential scanning calorimeter. It can assay a wide variety of sample types (accommodating solid fragments, powders, pastes, or liquids) with excellent temperature precision (± 0.05 °C) and accuracy (± 0.1 °C).

Within an analytical range of -50 to 400 °C, the tool can furthermore be operated with a diversity of automated run conditions: temperatures can be ramped from 0.1 °C/min up to 30 °C/min under Ar, or N2 atmosphere using indirect, resistance heating with detection sensitivity to 0.2 µW. Analytical versatility on the instrument is backed by the suite of capabilities in TA’s accompanying Thermal Solutions software package.