// Blog March 1, 2024

Is Thermal Analysis Required for Fertilizer?

By Meaghan Fielding, Business Development Manager

Plants use nutrients from the soil, air, and water to produce organic compounds, such as sugars, proteins, and fats, vital for their metabolism, growth, and reproduction. However, some nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, are often limited or depleted in the soil, especially after repeated cropping. Without adequate fertilization, plants may suffer from nutrient deficiencies, reducing their yield, quality, and resistance to pests and diseases. Fertilizer provides essential nutrients to plants that improve their growth and productivity and also help to feed the world’s population by increasing crop yields and quality.

Thermal analysis is required for fertilizer because it can help to determine the quality, stability, and composition of fertilizer products. Some of the reasons why thermal analysis is needed for fertilizer are:

  • To ensure that the fertilizer contains the right amount and ratio of nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other trace elements, that are essential for plant growth and health. By measuring the composition, you can compare the experimental value with the stated composition value found on the label.
  • To prevent the degradation or decomposition of the fertilizer due to exposure to heat, moisture, oxygen, or other factors. By testing the fertilizer sample under varying conditions, you can determine a safe transportation/storage atmosphere to ensure the fertilizer remains stable and avoids the fertilizer becoming less effective or potentially hazardous.
  • To optimize the production and application of the fertilizer by understanding its physical and chemical properties, such as melting point, crystallization, phase transitions, moisture content, and solubility. 
  • To produce an accurate SDS. It is important for fertilizer SDSs to be accurate because they provide crucial information on hazardous chemicals, including potential risks associated with their use and storage, and how to use them safely. An inaccurate SDS can lead to serious consequences, such as:
    • Misuse or abuse of the product, which can result in damage, injury, or death.
    • Exposure to harmful substances, which can cause acute or chronic health effects, such as irritation, burns, poisoning, or cancer.
    • Environmental contamination, which can harm the soil, water, air, plants, animals, or humans.
    • Legal liability, which can result in fines, penalties, lawsuits, or criminal charges.

Phospholutions Inc., a globally-recognized phosphate-focused fertilizer company, regularly utilizes various thermal analyses in its daily research operations. The company is focused on sustainably enhancing the use efficiency of phosphorus, the second-largest nutrient used in food production worldwide. Throughout research and development, Phospholutions employs thermal analysis to obtain key insights and detailed understanding of the structural nature of materials, both raw and processed.  More specifically, these techniques have allowed the company to look at bond breaking and atomic rearrangements as fertilizer materials are heated, which has ultimately led to the development of a world-leading phosphorus-buffering fertilizer.  Additionally, material surface chemistry during these temperature transitions has successfully been elucidated, providing major clues as to how the fertilizer behaves in varying soil environments and conditions.

Furthermore, thermal analysis is integral for Phospholutions’ Quality Control and Stability departments to identify and track any changes or impurities introduced in manufacturing processes. Rapid identification ensures a uniform and effective product batch after batch and year after year. Product and material stability is additionally tested using temperature-based instrumentation.  Ultimately, thermal analysis is a cornerstone of the development and characterization of Phospholutions’ products, leading to improved phosphorus management and happy farmers.

The Rigaku STA is a great fit for measuring thermal properties, including thermal degradation, of fertilizer samples. STA, or simultaneous thermal analysis, has the benefit of being a ‘2 in 1’ instrument – a combination of TGA and DTA/DSC – allowing labs to save space and save time by only running one instrument and quickly generating the data traditionally generated by two. This instrument gives users the ability to measure their samples under varying conditions, up to 1500C and under different atmospheres (inert, oxygen, differing %RH). FTIR or MS can also be attached to the Rigaku STA as an option, which allows the user to perform evolved gas analysis (EGA). The sample observation feature on the Rigaku STA allows the user to visually see the sample during the test, giving insight to color change (quantifiable with RGB color analysis) and sample behavior during heat events and mass loss. Additionally, dynamic (sample controlled) TG – a standard feature on the Rigaku STA – provides additional information compared to traditional, linear-heating TGA, such as an earlier onset of degradation.

For more information about the Rigaku STA, please visit https://ctherm.com/rigaku/ or email rigaku@ctherm.com


Thank you to Kyle Isaacson and Alyson Boehr from Phospholutions for their contributions to the blog post.

About the Author

Meaghan Fielding

Business Development Manager

Meaghan is a Business Development Manager at C-Therm Technologies- supporting clients with their thermal testing needs. Meaghan has experience working in laboratory research environments from her time at Alabama State University, where she completed her BSc in biomedical engineering. Meaghan also spent time as a technologist at Thermal Analysis Labs, which gave her a broad understanding of multiple different thermal analysis techniques. 


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