Differential scanning calorimetry

Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) is a thermoanalytical technique that measures the heat flow through a sample to provide information on the material’s phase transitions and enthalpy changes. DSC is often used to characterize polymers, but the method is also suitable for a range of other sample types from pharmaceuticals to proteins.

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What is DSC analysis used for?

Differential scanning calorimetry is a thermal analysis technique used to acquire information about solid and semi-solid materials’ behavior at different temperatures. Obtainable information includes the melting temperature (Tm), crystallization temperature (Tc), glass transition temperature (Tg), and the melting and crystallization enthalpies. Specific heat capacity can also be measured.

The data obtained with DSC can be used to characterize a variety of samples, including polymers, metals, pharmaceuticals, thin films, and proteins. Applications include determining the optimal storing and processing temperatures of heat-sensitive materials, as well as comparing the stability of different materials when exposed to elevated temperatures. DSC can also be used to identify the presence of impurities, as these will affect the material's thermal characteristics.

How does differential scanning calorimetry work?

During DSC analysis, the sample and the reference material are cooled or heated at a steady rate. Heat flow is monitored to characterize phase transitions and enthalpies as a function of temperature or time. The operating range of DSC is generally broad, although the exact range depends on the equipment. At Measurlabs, we offer accredited thermal characterization with DSC within a temperature range of -170 °C to 600 °C.

Differential scanning calorimetry can also be used to measure the oxidation induction time (OIT), which indicates how well the material handles oxidative stress. Typically, nitrogen is used in DSC testing to prevent oxidation. In OIT measurement, the sample is first heated to the observation temperature, after which the nitrogen atmosphere is replaced with an oxygen atmosphere. OIT is the time from the change of gases to the exothermic peak, and it describes how well the material survives oxidative stress at a given temperature.

In addition to DSC, Measurlabs offers several other techniques for thermal analysis. These include TGA, DMA, TMA, and dilatometry. Do not hesitate to request a quote for testing services through the form below.

Suitable sample matrices

  • Food substances
  • Biopolymers, like proteins, enzymes, etc.
  • Metals, alloys, films, fibers
  • Oils and greases
  • Amorphous substances
  • Polymers
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Powders

Ideal uses of DSC testing

  • Determining the thermal transition midpoints (Tm) for biopolymers
  • Optimizing material processing temperatures
  • Determining the melting and solidification temperatures of metals and alloys
  • Identifying impurities in food, plastics, and pharmaceutical products
  • Energy consumption calculations in food production line optimization
  • Determining the crystallization temperature and estimating the degree of crystallinity
  • Discovering the freezing point of food products and antifreeze substances

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Frequently asked questions

What is DSC analysis commonly used for?

Differential scanning calorimetry is used to analyze the heat changes in materials conformations, and it can therefore help to determine the optimal storing temperature for things like pharmacy products and food.

DSC is also a common tool for product line optimization, as it gives exact temperatures for melting and other heat-related processes.

What are the limitations of differential scanning calorimetry?

Some volatile samples are not optimal for DSC testing, as the test does not allow any sample loss during the process. The method is also destructive to the sample.

In addition, DSC analysis does not provide direct elemental information.

If a reaction event occurs simultaneously with phase transition, the reliability of DSC decreases.

What kinds of samples can be analyzed with DSC?

DSC analysis is usually performed on solids or semisolids, but liquids can also be studied. Highly volatile substances may reduce the reliability of the analysis.

What is Measurlabs?

Measurlabs offers a variety of laboratory analyses for product developers and quality managers. We perform some of the analyses in our own lab, but mostly we outsource them to carefully selected partner laboratories. This way we can send each sample to the lab that is best suited for the purpose, and offer high-quality analyses with more than a thousand different methods to our clients.

How does the service work?

When you contact us through our contact form or by email, one of our specialists will take ownership of your case and answer your query. You get an offer with all the necessary details about the analysis, and can send your samples to the indicated address. We will then take care of sending your samples to the correct laboratories and write a clear report on the results for you.

How do I send my samples?

Samples are usually delivered to our laboratory via courier. Contact us for further details before sending samples.