Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC)

Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC)  is a thermal analysis technique that probes material’s heat capacity (Cp) and thermal effects as a function of temperature.

How it works. A sample of known mass is heated or cooled and the changes in its heat capacity are tracked as changes in the heat flow. This allows the detection of transitions such as melts, glass transitions, phase changes, and curing. The information the DSC generates is used to understand amorphous and crystalline  behavior, polymorphic and eutectic transitions, curing and a degree of cure, and many other material properties used to design, manufacture, and test products.

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Instrumentation Available

Key Attributes

  • Temperature range: -90°C – 725°C
  • Controlled heating rates: 0.01 to 100 °C/minute
  • Temperature accuracy: +/- 0.1 °C
  • Sensitivity: 0.2 µW
  • Atmosphere: Nitrogen, Oxygen;
  • Data acquisition: Isothermal, Linear temperature scanning, Temperature modulated.


  • Requires a small (a few milligrams) sample size;
  • Accurate measurement of temperature and magnitude of phase transitions and heat capacities;
  • Clear physical meaning of test results;
  • Ability to detect weak phase transitions;
  • Ability to separate overlapping thermal transitions (Modulated DSC option).


  • Destructive method;
  • No direct structural information;
  • Requires no interaction between a sample and a DSC pan.


  • Measuring of phase transitions (e.g. melting, crystallization, glass transition) of polymeric materials;
  • Measuring heat capacity of pure compounds and mixtures;
  • Measuring heat of fusion and heat of solidification (delta H – enthalpy change);
  • Measurement of crystallinity percent of thermoplastics;
  • Phase diagram construction;
  • Evaluating formulations, blends and effects of additives;
  • Determining the effects of aging;
  • Isothermal kinetics studies;
  • Determining percent purity of relatively pure organics;
  • Analyzing cure or crystallization kinetics;
  • Determining phase separation of polymer blends and copolymers;
  • Characterizing polymorphic materials;
  • Evaluating thermal history of compounds;
  • Process and product improvement.

Additional Reading