# What Is Calorimetry?

When designing seals, knowing the temperature at which the elastomer transitions to solid behavior helps avoid disasters like the Challenger Space Shuttle. As with almost every other material, the properties of elastomers vary with temperature. Above their glass transition temperature (Tg) they’re flexible, but cool them down and they act like solids. This becomes a problem when a rocket spends a chilly night on a launch pad.

Safe, reliable products require an understanding of the relationship between material properties and temperature. Acquiring that knowledge involves measuring heat flow into and out of the material, which is done with calorimetry. This blog explains what is calorimetry, what is a calorimeter used for, and introduces some of the equipment used.

## Introduction to Calorimetry

For those asking, “What is calorimetry?” it’s the science of heat measurement, which is different to temperature. Heat is a form of energy. It can result from chemical reactions, and it can cause chemical reactions. Adding or removing it can initiate phase changes, cause expansion or contraction, and trigger or result from curing.

A simple example is heating water to turn it into steam. Once the water is boiling, rather than raising the temperature, supplying more heat initiates a transition from liquid to gaseous phases. Calorimetry involves measuring heat flows to determine the energy needed to effect the state change.

## What Does a Calorimeter Measure?

A calorimeter measures the amount of thermal energy — heat — used or released in a reaction or phase change. This provides insights into material properties and behaviors that help guide processing and design decisions. Calorimeters take several forms, but the most widely used, because it yields a lot of information, is the differential scanning calorimeter (DSC).

The heart of a calorimeter is a cup or crucible containing the sample under evaluation. This is thermally insulated from the surroundings to create a closed system where no energy can enter from or be lost to the outside.

In many equipment designs the sample is placed in water or another liquid. The temperature and mass of liquid is measured as the sample is heated. Knowing the mass and specific heat capacity of the sample, temperature provides a means of deriving the heat put in or extracted.

A DSC expands on this method by adding a second reference cup. Using this, it measures the difference in temperature between sample and reference to determine heat flow.

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## Industries That Use Calorimeters

The calorimeter is a sensitive piece of analytical equipment usually residing in a laboratory and operated by trained professionals. Applications are found in:

• Manufacturing
• Energy extraction and production

In academia calorimetry is used for process and material characterization in support of research initiatives. Manufacturing industries from food and beverage to automotive use calorimetry to characterize materials and establish process controls. What does a calorimeter measure? The main applications include:

• Characterizing active ingredients in pharmaceuticals and food and beverage products
• Quantifying the performance of semiconductor materials
• Determining time and temperature parameters for curing and bonding processes
• Characterizing polymers and resins in the plastics and coatings industries

One of the first, and still largest, applications of calorimetry is in the energy sector. Coal mines need to know how much energy is contained in the coal they are extracting, and the same goes for oil and gas producers. For all these industries, calorimetry is the perfect tool.

Straddling energy and manufacturing, wind turbine blade production is another good DSC application. Here the challenge is ensuring consistent cure of the bonded composite blades, and calorimetry is the tool for measuring heat flow in bonding processes.

## High Quality Equipment for Measuring Heat and Its Effects

Heat is needed in and released by many processes, including combustion, curing and more. Heat is essential for phase changes, and for materials like polymers, it has a big impact on their flexibility. When designing products or processes, and when manufacturing and characterizing materials, understanding their response to heat is key to ensuring safety and durability.

Heat and heat flow is measured by calorimetry, using instruments called calorimeters. Linseis is a leader in the design and manufacture of differential scanning calorimeters and related analytical equipment for laboratory use.

Our product range spans thermal analysis equipment, dilatometry, thermal conductivity and thermoelectric analysis. Browse our products and contact us with any questions.