What’s the right temperature for your factory floor and long-term storage to maximize the lifespan of your plastic products? How will changing the filler ingredient in your polymer product affect its performance? How will heat impact the effectiveness of your latest pharmaceutical offering?
These are all questions that can be explored with a laboratory technique called Differential Scanning Calorimetry, or DSC. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is DSC Analysis?
DSC is a thermal analysis technique that measures how materials respond to a wide range of temperatures, including extreme heat and cold. DSC measures changes in heat flow as a sample changes from one state to another – for example, from solid to liquid. In doing so, the test quantifies how heat affects chemical composition, melting point, crystallization behavior, oxidation, and more. DSC is a very popular testing technique wherever fluctuations in temperature can have a profound impact on product performance. It’s also commonly used to detect impurities and assess the impact of fillers in products. Industries that use DSC testing include polymers (thermoplastic and thermoset), pharmaceuticals and general manufacturing.
What Is DSC Analysis Used For?
There are numerous reasons why a company may wish to understand the impact of temperature and additives like fillers have on product performance and efficacy. Here are few examples:
Overcoming quality control issues
Extreme temperatures have a major effect on certain substances, changing chemical composition and, therefore affecting how they perform and/or how safe they are to use in typical application. In some cases, these alterations to the chemical composition will cause physical changes – you may be able to see, touch, taste, or smell how heat has affected a product. For example, a product may smell unusual or a solid may have turned liquid. Oftentimes, however, the damage is somewhat invisible.
Using DSC as a quality control test for plastic can help manufacturers zero in on the reason for product performance issues – whether it’s deterioration due to extreme temperatures, improper amounts of additives or fillers, contaminants, poor curing or another reason.
Determining ideal temperature for polymer curing
DSC analysis can help manufacturers determine how to cure polymers for optimal strength. Recently we used DSC to identify the reason for epoxy failures for a client who noticed a high degree of movement in the substrates in their sensitive electromechanical device. Through comparative testing we discovered that some of the client’s ovens weren’t curing at high enough temperature.
Identifying impurities in liquids
If you’re concerned that a liquid product has been contaminated, DSC can help uncover the cause. We use a process called freezing-point depression to evaluate your sample against a reference material. Compared to pure compounds, liquids with impurities will have a flatter melting peak that begins at a lower temperature.
Defining safe storage and shipping temperatures
For some products extreme temperatures can have a significant impact on quality. But for some products, like medications, product breakdown can have life-or-death consequences. DSC testing can determine the ideal shipping and storage conditions for products.
DSC in Action: Pharmaceutical Safety
Medications come in different forms, including pills, liquids, inhalers, sprays and injectables. Regardless of shape, one similarity is that extreme temperatures can affect how safe and effective drugs are for patient use.
Under high heat, the chemical composition of many medications breaks down, making them less potent. On the other end of the temperature spectrum, extreme cold can cause liquid medicines and vaccines to freeze, lowering efficacy and causing them to become unstable.
Knowing how and when temperature affects medications can be valuable from the research phase all the way through the use of the product by the patient. By modifying the manufacturing process, companies may be able to avoid undesirable phase changes, such as crystallization, which can affect the end product. DSC analysis also helps pharmaceutical manufacturers identify product risks and warnings related to temperature and define storage and shipping conditions.
Another application for DSC in pharmaceutical manufacturing is detecting the presence of impurities in a drug formulation.
Read more about how DSC is used to ensure the safety of medications.
Wondering if DSC is Right for Your Next Project?
If you’re wondering how heat is affecting product performance, safety or efficacy, DSC analysis may help you uncover the source of the issue. Of course, every project is unique and there may be a better testing technique for your project – but if there is, we’ll help you figure that out. The team at Innovatech Labs has decades of experience in material analysis and in providing the right solution for every customer.
Contact Innovatech Labs to see if DSC is right for you by filling out a contact form or calling us at 888-740-5227.