Differential Scanning Calorimetry – DSC

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Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) is a thermoanalytical tool used to monitor changes in a material's heat capacity as a function of temperature. For a DSC study, the sample holder's temperature should rise linearly as a function of time according to the temperature programme typically used for the study. Over the temperature range that will be scanned, the reference sample should have a clearly defined heat capacity.


Differential Scanning Calorimetry

Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) is a thermoanalytical tool used to track changes in heat capacity of a material with temperature. This is achieved by measuring the heat flow of a known weight sample when it is heated or cooled over time against a reference material. DSC is commonly used for polymeric and non-metallic materials to study melting/crystallization behavior, solid-solid reactions, polymorphism, degree of crystallinity, glass transitions, cross-linking reactions, oxidative stability, decomposition behavior, specific heat, and many other material properties crucial for product development, manufacturing and testing. It is a widely used tool in various industries from pharmaceuticals, food industry, semiconductors, electronics, polymers, etc. A DSC experiment yields a heat flow against temperature or vs time curve.

There are two primary types of DSC: 

  • Power differential DSC – a method in which the temperature of the sample unit, made up of the sample and reference material, is changed according to a predetermined programme, while the difference in thermal energy applied to the sample and reference material per unit of time is measured as a function of temperature to equalize their temperatures. 
  • Heat-flux DSC – a method whereby the temperature of the sample unit, which consists of a sample and reference material, is changed according to a predetermined programme, and the temperature difference between the sample and the reference material is then measured as a function of temperature.

Video 01: What is Differential Scanning Calorimetry?

Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) Common Uses

  • Drug–lipid interactions, the status of the lipid, and melting and recrystallization behaviors of the Nanostructured Lipid Carriers (NLCs)a
  • Thermodynamics of nucleic acid-folding transitions (DNA and RNA)
  • Evaluation of thermal reversibility of protein degradation
  • Analysis of physicochemical transformation during starch gelatinization process
  • Prediction of the storage life of food products
  • Determination of oxidative stability, thermal degradation, and water loss in the sample
  • Evaluation of eutectic point and construction of phase diagrams
  • Determination of glass transition temperature (Tg) to determine the miscibility of biopolymer blends
  • Determination of the cure behavior of thermoset monomers or oligomers
  • Examining the effect of hardeners on the thermal properties of cured materials
  • Determination of heat of fusion and extent of crystallization for the crystalline materials
  • Estimation of the heat and degree of curing reaction, and residual cure


  • An easy and quick way to study the thermal transitions in the materials
  • Can be used for a wide range of temperatures (−90 to 550 °C)
  • A low-cost technique that requires a low amount of sample
  • Sensitive identification of even a slightly weak phase transition


  • It is a destructive analysis technique, so heterogeneous materials might be challenging to analyze
  • Does not detect the gas generation
  • Can not provide elemental analysis
  • Difficulty in the correct interpretation of the results when there is an overlapping of some phase transitions
  • Constant mass of the sample is required throughout the test; evaporation or sublimation of the sample would result in inaccurate results


  • Polymers and composites
  • Membranes and Films
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Biology
  • Nanomaterials
  • Food Science Research
  • Semiconductors
  • Electronics
  • Drug delivery and diagnosis

Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) Laboratories

  • EAG Laboratories Inc.
  • Element Materials Technology
  • ATS Applied Technical Servicess, Inc.
  • Intertek
  • Avomeen
  • Particle Technology Labs
  • Medallion Labs
  • Innovatech Labs, LLC

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    FAQs on Differential Scanning Calorimetry – DSC

    I am looking for a suitable material testing laboratory to get differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) analysis done. Whom should I contact?

    Contact us for all your material testing needs supported by our vast network of material testing laboratories, spread across the USA. DSC analysis is carried out for polymeric, non-metallic materials, and other suitable samples to study melting/crystallization behavior, polymorphism, degree of crystallinity, oxidative stability, decomposition behavior, specific heat, and many other properties.

    How much does Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) analysis cost?

    Thermal analysis of materials using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) starts at $300/sample.

    What information can I get with the Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) analysis?

    Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) is a powerful tool for polymer analysis. DSC generates data that can be used to gain the following physical properties: decomposition temperature, component identification, melting point, glass transition, sample purity, heat capacity, glass transitions, cross-linking characteristics among others. DSC is frequently used for process development, product research & development, and quality control applications.

    What is Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) testing used for?

    Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) is a thermoanalytical tool used to track changes in the heat capacity of a material with temperature.

    How does Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) measure specific heat capacity?

    In Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) testing, the specific heat capacity is measured by heating a specimen and then measuring the temperature difference between the specimen and a reference material.

    How do you carry out the Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) test?

    In Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) testing, the specimen is heated as per the specifications and the energy required to heat the specimen is compared to a reference material maintained at the same temperature. The specimen is said to be endothermic if it requires more energy as compared to the reference material. If the specimen requires lower energy, it is said to be exothermic.

    Can Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) measure thermal conductivity?

    Yes. By combining thermal sensors with the differential scanning calorimeter, DSC can measure the thermal conductivity in solid materials.

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