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TGA – Thermogravimetric Analysis or Thermal Gravimetric Analysis is a type of testing that is performed on samples to determine changes in weight in relation to change in temperature. Such analysis relies on a high degree of precision in three measurements: weight, temperature, and temperature change. As many weight loss curves look similar, the weight loss curve may require transformation before results may be interpreted. A derivative weight loss curve can be used to tell the point at which weight loss is most apparent. Again, interpretation is limited without further modifications and deconvolution of the overlapping peaks may be required.

TGA is commonly employed in research and testing to determine characteristics of materials such as polymers, to determine degradation temperatures, absorbed moisture content of materials, the level of inorganic and organic components in materials, decomposition points of explosives, and solvent residues. It is also often used to estimate the corrosion kinetics in high temperature oxidation.

Simultaneous TGA-DTA/DSC measures both heat flow and weight changes (TGA) in a material as a function of temperature or time in a controlled atmosphere. Simultaneous measurement of these two material properties not only improves productivity but also simplifies interpretation of the results. The complementary information obtained allows differentiation between endothermic and exothermic events which have no associated weight loss (e.g., melting and crystallization) and those which involve a weight loss (e.g., degradation).

The analyzer usually consists of a high-precision micro balance with a pan (generally platinum) loaded with the sample. The pan is placed in a small electrically heated oven with a thermocouple to accurately measure the temperature. The atmosphere may be purged with an inert gas to prevent oxidation or other undesired reactions. A computer is used to control the instrument.

Analysis is carried out by raising the temperature gradually and plotting weight against temperature. The temperature in many testing methods routinely reaches 1000°C or greater, but the oven is so greatly insulated that an operator would not be aware of any change in temperature even if standing directly in front of the device. After the data is obtained, curve smoothing and other operations may be done such as to find the exact points of inflection.

A method known as hi-resolution TGA is often employed to obtain greater accuracy in areas where the derivative curve peaks. In this method, temperature increase slows as weight loss increases. This is done so that the exact temperature at which a peak occurs can be more accurately identified. Several modern TGA devices can vent burnoff to an infrared spectrophotometer to analyze composition.