Nanocalorimetry can measure extremely rapid temperature changes in materials and interfaces at very small scales. It is a growing field due to the increasing interest in understanding the thermal behaviors of thin films and nanomaterials for various applications. Microchip-based technology such as micro-fabricated membrane chip-based nanocalorimeters can provide direct measurements of high-speed, multi-step reactions such as sub-monolayer films and surface reactions.

Yi et al. provide a comprehensive review of nanocalorimetry to date. The paper provides a background of the technology, before discussing current calibration techniques and the progress of its integration with other measurement techniques such as electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, and x-ray diffraction.

Nanocalorimetry has helped reveal new material behaviors invisible to conventional thermal analysis. The authors support this claim by providing real world examples, including the heat transformation of silk proteins for medical research, the fundamental physics behind structural recovery in polymer glasses, and melting points for nanomaterials.

The authors also present new directions for nanocalorimetry research with metastable materials and epitaxial materials. They point out that the speed of nanocalorimetry is useful for studying metastable materials and can even help monitor their growth by providing real time information on the progression of phase transitions and reactions.

In the future, integrating nanocalorimetry with other devices looking at microstructural, chemical, and atomic information could further propel the potential of the technique, particularly for delving further into materials physics.

Source: “Nanocalorimetry: Exploring materials faster and smaller,” by Feng Yi and David A. LaVan, Applied Physics Reviews (2019). The article can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.1063/1.5098297.