Thermomechanical analysis (TMA) probes the response of the sample’s thermal, dynamic and static-mechanical properties as temperature is changed over time.

The technique is based on a straightforward measurement of the displacement of a sample as heat is applied, increasing temperature. Also, a controlled force can be applied (either dynamic/variable or unchanging/static) over the course of heating, enabling the instrument to probe a robust assortment of mechanical properties of the sample as a function of temperature.


The simplicity and versatility of TMA instruments make the technique one of the most ubiquitously applicable in industry, with numerous uses in all branches of materials science. It is most commonly used for design and process engineering, and in quality assurance functions, where accurate measurement of the thermal expansion coefficient is of particular importance to informing how components may fit together (as in automotive, aerospace, electronics and semiconductors engineering).

The tool can also be used to compute thin-film thickness, and to parse the thicknesses of multiple film layers on a sub-micron scale with acute accuracy. Additionally, due to its high sensitivity, it often exceeds the detection capabilities of a DSC, making it the preferred technique for probing thermal properties (such as glass transition temperature) for complex polymers such as highly cross-linked thermosets.


  • Glass transition temperature
  • Melting point
  • Storage (elastic) Modulus, Loss Modulus, Flexural Modulus, and Young’s Modulus (the latter is limited to very small samples)
  • Strain-to-Break (deformation limit is 3mm)
  • Toughness
  • Creep
  • Stress Relaxation
  • Softening point and heat deflection temperature
  • Gel and vitrification times
  • Degree of swelling
  • Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE)
  • Isothermal cure of supported samples (e.g. mounted on wire mesh, glass fibers, filter paper)
  • Thin-film thickness
  • Thermal history

Uses & Limitations:

  • What it is great for:
    • Ultra-high sensitivity to deformation and displacement
    • Tremendous flexibility in experimental design to investigate a wide range of properties
    • Rapid and straightforward data collection with minimal sample prep
  • Limitations:
    • Data quality hindered for rough, asymmetric and/or irregularly shaped samples

Example outputs

TMA measurement of dimensional change (shrinkage and expansion) of oriented polyethylene film acquired in tensile mode

TMA measurement of multilayer film thickness by a penetration test. Layer thickness is annotated on the plot


TA Instruments Q400 TMA
The Q400 is a high-performance, research-grade TMA with an unmatched versatility in user operation, and our tool has been further modified to accommodate both dynamic and modulated experiment modes, enabling operators to investigate all dynamic and static thermomechanical properties listed above. It is equipped with a furnace which can operate from -150 to 1000 °C, with temperature precision to ± 1°C. The tool can achieve measurement precision up to 0.1%, with displacement sensitivity of 15 nm facilitated by TA’s patented and top-of-the-line linear variable differential transducer detector. The force motor on this tool is precisely controlled and friction-free, delivering calibrated force to the sample from 0.001 to 1 N (can be expanded to 2 N with auxiliary components).