What is Thermal Analysis?

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  • Written By: Jason C. Chavis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 December 2019
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The branch of material science known as thermal analysis is the study of the change of temperature within the properties of materials. A number of different properties are studied using this method including mass, dimension, volume, stiffness, damping, heat transfer and temperature. Other concepts can be employed within the method as well, determining how temperature relates to light and sound. The main purpose of the entire discipline is to find how temperature impacts other facets of physics.

When conducting experiments with thermal analysis, researchers generally control the temperature in a standardized format. This is accomplished by either keeping, increasing, or decreasing the temperature at a constant rate or working with a variety of predetermined different temperatures. Adjustments can be made for different research techniques using oscillating temperatures.

Environment is also a major key in properly conducting thermal analysis. The atmosphere surrounding and permeating the element being researched can have drastic effects on the technical results. Some of the most common environments in which to study thermodynamics include general air or an inert gas such as nitrogen or helium. This allows the least impact on the results of heat transfer and other elements within the study.


The thermal analysis of polymers is one of the largest areas of research within the field. This comes in the form of both raw materials as well as everyday packaging and household products. Raw materials can be studied with the addition of various elements such as dyes and stabilizers to determine what may be the best use for the materials. Packaging and products are tested to identify the resistance to the environment and possible events that occur daily.

Within the field of metals, various production techniques are studied to determine the best way to use and create materials such as cast iron, aluminum alloys, copper alloys and steels. To conduct this research, a sample of liquid metal must be obtained. It is then monitored through its cooling process in a container that identifies the various aspects of thermal analysis. This allows for more efficient materials management and can help determine what processes are the best for a particular metal.

Thermal analysis is essential to the proper production, transport, storage, safety and preparation of food throughout the industry. The various techniques used by researchers are evaporation, pasteurization, freezing and cooking. Studies must be conducted on all food stock to determine the best way to preserve that food from field to the table. For example, a frozen box dinner needs to be kept at a certain temperature until it is ready to be consumed. It also needs to be cooked for a specific time period to make sure all bacterial elements are gone.


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