Reaching New Heights
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Gilles Widawski, president of NETZSCH Instruments North America, regarding the conference and the state of the art in high-temperature thermal analysis.
How can thermal analysis benefit manufacturers in the ceramic, glass and related industries?
Understanding material properties is something that is very important-in some cases, critical-for product development, quality assurance and process optimization. This is true for many different materials, including ceramics, glass, and building materials, as well as different industrial fields like the nuclear industry, aerospace, and many others. Thermal analysis is a technique that provides very valuable insights into the behavior of these materials, especially at high temperatures where these materials are processed or used.
The different techniques we include in the thermal analysis field are differential scanning calorimetry (DSC or DTA) for the analysis of phase changes and specific heat. There is also thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) to characterize mass changes such as the burnout of ceramic binders at high temperature. We can also perform simultaneous thermal analysis, which is a combination of DSC and TGA on one sample, to get a direct correlation of the two techniques.
Another technique is dilatometry, which characterizes thermal expansion and gives insight on sintering rates and densification, for example. The technique to analyze the thermal diffusivity or calculate the thermal conductivity in order to understand heat transfer through a material is a technique called laser flash.
There is also a trend to couple technologies, such as thermal analysis with infrared, mass spectroscopy or gas chromatography. You get more out of your experiment when you combine different techniques. You basically investigate the gas evolved from the thermal analysis equipment to another device, and it gives the scientist a better understanding of the material.
All of these techniques are used to give some insight about the behavior of these materials and also for scientists to build a model or simulation that can be used to investigate the material's long-term behavior, for example. It's a key characterization technique if you want to develop a material that will be in an environment that can have either a high temperature or a big variation of temperature.
Think about the shuttle going into space. This shuttle will have to go from very, very high temperatures to very, very low temperatures. It's a big drop of temperature, and the construction of the materials (the ceramic tiles as an example) and their selection need to be carefully handled by the designer. From the material point of view, scientists are developing new materials that could be exposed to more and more challenging environments.
We have observed over the past 20 years that there is a growth of the use of this equipment in the high-temperature thermal analysis effort. We see a bright future for these characterization techniques going at higher and higher temperatures.
This is really driven by the development of advanced materials and new processes, and also the need to have better control, reduce manufacturing costs, and manufacture in the safest environment for these materials. The idea of HI TEMP was born as a means of providing a nexus for interested people to come together and share ideas.
What can attendees expect to see at the conference?
HI TEMP will include presentations of cutting-edge results on materials such as thermoelectric materials, thermal barriers, piezoelectric ceramics, nuclear reactor materials and radioactive waste, as well as construction materials-all presented with a focus on the method of characterization. We're going to provide a strong basis for discussion with key speakers that have been invited from important labs, including Harvard, Clemson, LANL, NALCO, NASA and others, to cover different fields such as materials for energy applications, aerospace applications, thermoelectric materials, and ultra-high-temperature materials.
We have also decided to include a special session. On March 11, the largest earthquake/tsunami recorded in Japan badly impacted the nuclear power plant in Fukushima. This series of events led to very significant damage to the reactors and brings to light a field that is not new, called LOCA (loss of coolant accident). Thermal analysis plays a key role in this field, and we will have experts from different nuclear research institutes from France, the U.S., and hopefully Japan, who will give an overview of research in this field.
What attendees can expect is to have a great opportunity to exchange ideas and engage in discussion with experts in the field of high-temperature material characterization. We plan to have about 30 lecturers and posters, as well as instrument displays and laboratory tours. In addition, we have also organized nice events like a conference dinner, a tour of the MIT museum, and a tour of Boston, which is a nice area in this season.
What does the future hold for high-temperature thermal analysis?
We see continued growth as scientists try to push the limits of materials and more effectively characterize their behaviors at higher temperatures over bigger temperature variations. This means new instrument technology is needed, with higher detection limits, higher sensitivities and more resistant environments.
For additional information, contact NETZSCH Instruments North America LLC at (781) 272-5353, fax (781) 272-5225 or visit www.netzsch-thermal-analysis.com. Additional details regarding the HI TEMP 2011 Conference are available at www.hitemp2011.com.