IMG 6624

DSC is used to measure the heat flow during physical and chemical transitions in a sample as temperature changes. It offers valuable information on processes like melting, crystallization, phase transitions, and chemical reactions. The applications of DSC in process safety are wide-ranging. It can be used to screen for thermal hazards, assess chemical incompatibilities, characterize materials, and evaluate the thermal stability of products.

Applicable Standard: ASTM E537 Standard Test Method for The Thermal Stability of Chemicals by Differential Scanning Calorimetry

Principle of Operation

DSC operates on the principle of comparing the heat flow to a reference material under controlled temperature conditions. The sample and reference pans are subjected to the same temperature program. The heat flow difference between the sample and reference is continuously monitored, creating a thermal profile that reveals significant events occurring within the sample.

Test Method

A small quantity of the sample (typically 5 – 20 mg) is loaded into the test cell, which can be constructed from stainless steel, aluminum, or gold-plated cells. For safety studies, sealed high-pressure cells are recommended to prevent evaporative losses. The DSC instrument then ramps the sample, along with an identical reference pan, at a nominal ramp rate of 1 to 20 K·min-1. However, higher heat rates can result in lower sensitivity in determining the onset temperature. The DSC measures any exothermic or endothermic activity by assessing the heat flow between the sample and reference pans. The total energy released or absorbed by the sample can be quantified to measure the overall energy of a reaction. Isothermal tests can be performed for studying autocatalytic reactions, while different ramp rates allow for the extraction of formal lump-sum kinetic data.

Data Interpretation

Typically, a power versus time graph is provided to analyze the thermal reaction. The computer control system interprets this data and provides information on the test graph regarding the onset temperature and energy of the reaction (J·g-1). It should be noted that the obtained onset temperature is not absolute due to factors like the high phi factor and heat losses during testing. To account for this, a safety factor of up to 100 K is typically employed for high heating rates (>5 K·min-1). However, for more accurate onset temperature information, the adiabatic calorimeter method is recommended. The energy of decomposition does not require any modification and can be directly utilized for analysis. Comparing tests conducted under air and nitrogen enables the determination of whether an event is caused by oxidative processes or pure decomposition. By analyzing results from multiple tests with different temperature ramp rate, formal kinetic data can be obtained for decomposition reactions. It’s important to note that any decomposition energy exceeding 800 J·g-1 suggests the potential for explosive properties in the material.

In summary, you may obtain:

  • Reaction heat in J·g-1.
  • Onset T of the endo-exothermic reaction, but with an appropriate safety factor.
  • Ideally, reaction kinetic parameters such as activation energy, reaction order, and preexponential factor but need multiple tests with variable scanning rates.
  • Induction time of autocatalytic reaction but need expert guidance for testing procedure and data interpretation.

Why perform DSC test?

Performing a Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC) test in process safety is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it helps identify and understand the thermal behavior of materials, including potential hazards associated with phase transitions, reactions, or abnormal heat flow. This knowledge enables the evaluation and mitigation of risks during various process conditions. Additionally, DSC tests provide valuable data on the stability and compatibility of materials, aiding in the selection and optimization of process parameters. By utilizing DSC, businesses can ensure the safety of their processes and products while also enhancing efficiency and quality.

Why use us?

  • We are knowledgeable and experienced in performing differential scanning calorimeter tests, ensuring accurate and reliable results.
  • We have state-of-the-art differential scanning calorimeter equipment, providing precise and sensitive measurements.
  • We follow strict testing protocols and quality control measures to ensure consistent and reliable test results.
  • Our team can interpret and analyze the data obtained from the tests, providing valuable insights and recommendations for your specific application or research.


1. What is a Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC)?

A Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC) is an analytical instrument used to measure the heat flows associated with temperature changes in a sample. It provides information on phase transitions, thermal behavior, and energy changes in materials, making it valuable in process safety evaluations.

2. How does DSC work?

In DSC, the heat flow difference (or differential heat flow) between a sample and a reference material is measured as they undergo a controlled heating or cooling program. The energy differences indicate phase transitions, reactions, and other thermal events occurring in the sample. DSC data contributes to understanding the thermal behavior and safety aspects of materials.

3. What are the applications of DSC in process safety?

DSC has diverse applications in process safety assessments, including:

  • Determining thermal stability and decomposition behavior of materials under process conditions.
  • Identifying potential hazards associated with exothermic reactions, phase changes, or heat flow abnormalities.
  • Assessing the compatibility of materials in applications involving temperature variations.
  • Evaluating the influence of additives or impurities on the thermal behavior and reactivity of substances.
  • Validating stability of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and other chemical compounds.

4. What information can be obtained from DSC measurements?

DSC measurements provide valuable insight into the thermal properties of materials, including:

  • Detection and characterization of phase transitions such as melting points, crystallization, glass transitions, and more.
  • Determination of reaction enthalpies and kinetic parameters such as activation energies.
  • Evaluation of specific heat capacity and thermal conductivity.
  • Quantification of heat flow changes associated with physical or chemical processes.

5. Can DSC data be used for process optimization?

While DSC primarily focuses on characterizing the thermal behavior and potential hazards of materials, the information obtained from DSC experiments can be applied to process optimization. By understanding the temperature conditions at which materials undergo phase transitions or reactions, process parameters can be optimized to minimize risks, enhance product quality, and improve overall process efficiency.