10 ways thermal analysis is used in frontline research

Thermal analysis delivers fundamental information on how a material’s characteristics and how it’s likely to perform in the field. This, and it’s relative simplicity, make techniques like differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) invaluable for those developing novel materials for demanding applications, such as pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Here are just 10 examples of how Hitachi’s range of thermal analyzers is supporting ground-breaking research round the world.

10 ways thermal analysis is used in frontline research


1. Development of new materials for LED heatsinks

Polymer composite heatsinks are an excellent alternative to aluminum due to their low cost and weight, plus performance can be tailored by modifying the composition.

Graphene is of interest as a nanofiller for polymer composites used in this way, but its large surface area makes even dispersion through the polymer matrix difficult. To resolve this issue, Cho et al are experimenting with bridging materials between the graphene and polymer and are using Hitachi’s DSC7000 to determine thermal stability and transition temperature of the composite materials.1

2. Developing polymers with specific surface characteristics

One of the aims of new material research is to create materials with high strength, low weight and good thermal stability. Honeycomb structures exhibit these characteristics and current research is focused on creating micro patterned polymer surfaces with functionalized cavities. Controlling the distribution of particles within these materials is essential for controlling their characteristics, and Lakshmi et al is working on polystyrene-alumina hybrid films. Hitachi’s STA7200 simultaneous gravimetric analyzer was used to determine the organic content of the styrene-modified alumina particles.2

3. Hydrogel characterization for drug release

Nishimoto et al have been investigating methylcellulose (MC) used as a hydrogels within pharmaceutical applications. Certain characteristics of MC hydrogels, such as changes in gelation temperature, influence drug release. Hitachi’s DSC7000 has been used in this research to evaluate the interactions between MC and a polyethylene glycol additive.3

4. Determining essential thermal properties of synthesized materials

Wherever thermal behavior is a critical part of novel synthesized material research, thermal analysis is essential for characterizing thermal properties. For example, Ferreira et al have been working on designing thermal behavior of ammonium-based zwitterions (ZIs). Hitachi’s DSC7000 differential scanning calorimeter played a large part in determining the fundamental thermal properties of the ZIs’s, including decomposition temperature.4

5. Optimizing the process for grafting styrene onto Chitosan

The challenge of developing novel polymer materials is often getting the characteristics just right, and in this case the surface characteristics of Chitosan is modified by grafting styrene onto it. The resulting materials characterization was studied intensively, and thermal analysis played a part in determining the resulting thermal stability of the copolymer material. Hitachi’s DSC7000 differential scanning calorimeter was used in this study.5

6. Investigating thermal properties of potential materials for fusion-based energy

Lithium titanate has been recognized as a potential material to supply the essential tritium required for fusion energy reactors. Lithium titanate is produced through a reaction between lithium carbonate and titanium dioxide, and this reaction was investigated by Sharma and Uniyal. Thermogravimetric analysis (TG) was used to fully understand the kinetic mechanisms involved in this reaction, and Hitachi’s STA7200 was used in the research.6

7. Investigation of how thermal properties change when materials become ultra-thin

As materials get smaller, their properties depend more and more on surface characteristics rather than bulk characteristics. This study (by Iwasa et al) combines differential scanning calorimetry (with Hitachi’s DSC7000) and atomic force microscopy to understand the effect of surface characteristics on phase transition behavior of n-alkyl alcohol micro crystals.7

8. Analysing drug effectiveness after exposure to light

Some pharmaceuticals can degrade when exposed to light. This study by Hubicka et al concentrates on the effectiveness of antibacterial drugs from the fluoroquinolones group. These materials can experience photo degradation which reduces their antibacterial effectiveness and may cause side effects. Together with the UPLC-MS /MS method, Hitachi’s DSC 7020 was used to compare samples before and after irradiation.8

9. Understanding drug release and dissolution in tablet formulations

The way that drugs in tablet formulations dissolve in the body is an important part of pharmaceutical research. In this study, Talik and Hubicka investigated the non-freezing water content of hydrated hydroxypropylcellulose (HPC) to better understand drug release of compounds with different solubilities and HPCs of different molecular masses and viscosities. Differential scanning calorimetry (Hitachi’s DSC7020 model) was used for the research.9

10. Investigation into what factors affect polymorphic transition temperature of materials

Polymorphic materials can transform from one crystal structure to another. Yokata et al studied the polymorphic effects of terpyridine (terpy) and discovered that the transformation temperature is tunable, depending on the grinding level of the starting crystals. Hitachi’s DSC7000 differential scanning calorimeter was used to determine the transition temperature under different conditions.10


Advanced instruments for research applications

Our thermal analyzers have a world-class level of baseline stability and are sensitive enough to detect the smallest changes on the most minute samples, making them excellent for research. Our unique RealView system gives you a visual record of changes to your sample, broadening your understanding of material changes and characterization.

To find out more about how Hitachi’s range of advance thermal analyzers can support your research and development, get in touch to speak with one of our application experts, or arrange a demo.

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  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0008622316300859
  2. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2016/cp/c6cp00012f
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26353960/
  4. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2017/gc/c7gc02262j
  5. https://www.ajol.info/index.php/csj/article/view/158485
  6. https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA550951828&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=13886150&p=AONE&sw=w&userGroupName=anon%7Eaf06d23d
  7. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10973-015-4983-4
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23899303/
  9. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10973-017-6889-9
  10. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283622901_Tunable_Polymorphic_Transformation_Temperature

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Date: 2 February 2022

Author: Olivier Savard, Thermal Analysis Specialist

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