Trident™ Thermal Conductivity Application Highlight: Thermal Mapping and Filler Settling Detection in Polymer Composites With MTPS

The following Application Highlight features the use of the Modified Transient Plane Source method as a qualitative screening tool for the detection of filler dispersion uniformity in polymer composites.  

Creating composite materials can introduce new and beneficial performance properties. Whether the goal is to increase thermal heat transfer properties through conductive fillers, or increase thermal resistance via insulative additives, the uniformity of filler dispersion will be crucial to overall performance. Localized agglomeration and inhomogeneous dispersion will adversely affect the performance of the material and can lead to thermal management issues. The ability to detect this is important to ensure materials are being manufactured and function as intended, whether injection molded, mechanically mixed or 3D printed. 

Non-uniform filler distribution

Figure 1. Example of a visibly non-uniform filler distribution in a polymer.

Thermal conductivity (k) can be used as a metric to help detect these potential issues. While thermal conductivity of composites can be measured via various methods, the ability to detect localized differences related to fillers is only readily accomplished using C-Therm’s Modified Transient Plane Source (MTPS). Inhomogeneity of filler dispersion is not specifically detected when using steady-state methods such as Heat Flow Meters (HFM) as the heat flux measurement through the bulk reports an average of the entire sample. Even other transient-based methods such as the traditional Transient Plane Source (TPS) are not suited for this type of analysis owing to violations of the fundamental principles and theory of the method as they relate to sample requirements. The following highlights two different examples of how the MTPS can be used to quickly and reliably detect issues related to filler dispersion uniformity.  

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