Do you have polymer problems? If so, it might be time to turn up the heat. Literally.
Polymers are especially susceptible to swings in temperature. When they get hot, some are liable to melt. Too cold, and other polymers may shatter. Knowing the optimal temperature for plastics manufacturing can ensure the strongest, most durable products.
Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) is an analysis tool that measures the performance and degradation of polymers when exposed to a wide range of temperatures, including extreme heat and cold.
Read on to learn how DSC analysis can help with product development and quality control.
What You Can Learn from Polymer Thermal Reactions
DSC analysis identifies subtle changes resulting from temperature changes in polymers. For example, DSC analyzes fluctuations in heat flow as a sample moves between states — as when it changes from a solid to a liquid.
During the research and development process, you can use DSC analysis to determine the best processing temperatures for polymer curing, injection molding, and extrusion. And, by comparing results between samples, you can assess the impact of the process, fillers and impurities on product performance and durability.
Manufacturers also can use DSC to analyze their materials and products for quality control, studying purity and composition variations, and determining the degree of polymer curing. These insights are gleaned from specific qualities that DSC evaluates.
What Qualities Does DSC Analysis Measure?
Below are listed several properties DSC is commonly used to assess:
Glass Transition Temperature
The glass transition is a transformation that’s unique to polymers. Polymers below their transition temperature are hard and brittle, like glass, while above the transition they are more rubber-like.
Knowing a polymer’s glass transition temperature helps ensure that developed products perform as expected in the target condition. You wouldn’t want a computer cooling fan’s blades to become rubbery and floppy when exposed to heat, or an ice scraper to shatter when it’s below zero.
Different polymers have different heat capacities — the amount of heat required to achieve an incremental temperature increase.
Knowing a sample’s heat capacity can be helpful, especially when materials aren’t working as they should. For example, by comparing the heat capacity of polymer samples cured in two different ovens, we were able to identify the source of an epoxy failure.
When a polymer reaches its crystallization point, molecules align in neat chains or stacks of chains. This intermolecular bonding makes the polymer much stronger.
Knowing the temperature at which a polymer reaches crystallization can help you design a plastics manufacturing process that ensures sufficient crystallinity. If your products break when they shouldn’t, then evaluating crystallinity points may help you determine if you have a quality control problem.
As polymers move towards their melting points, they go from solid to leather to tacky before becoming liquid. Reaching the melting point means that a polymer’s molecules shift out of order and move around freely. Understanding a polymer’s melting point can help minimize quality performance issues resulting from extreme heat — such as sides of a beach ball fusing together on a hot summer day.
Enthalpy typically refers to the amount of thermal energy a product releases or absorbs as it melts or crystalizes. If it produces heat, it’s exothermic. If a material absorbs heat, it’s endothermic. This information can help identify if the polymer is likely to have a dangerous reaction with surrounding components.
Turn up the Heat on Polymers and Get Cool Results
DSC testing can help you identify the temperatures for optimal polymer performance. In addition, using DSC as a quality control test for plastic results can help you identify if contaminants, inadequate curing, or another reason is to blame for product failures.
While DSC analysis captures how a polymer responds to extreme temperature, it doesn’t positively identify the material composition or potential contaminants. So, depending on your testing requirements, DSC analysis can be combined with other material analysis techniques.
Innovatech has been providing reliable material analysis for over 30 years. We offer personalized service, innovative solutions, and quick turnaround.
To learn more or discuss a specific project, give us a call at 888-740-5227 or contact Innovatech Labs online.