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Differential AC-chip calorimeter for glass transition measurements in ultrathin films



A differential AC-chip calorimeter capable of measuring the step in heat capacity at the glass transition in nanometer-thin films is described. Because of the differential setup, pJ/K sensitivity is achieved. Heat capacity can be measured for sample masses below 1 ng in broad temperature range as needed for the study of the glass transition in nanometer-thin polymeric films. Relative accuracy is sufficient to investigate the changes in heat capacity as the step at the glass transition of polystyrene. The step is about 25% of the total heat capacity of polystyrene. The calorimeter allows for the frequency dependent measurement of complex heat capacity in the frequency range from 1 Hz to 1 kHz. The glass transition in thin polystyrene films (50–4 nm) was determined at well-defined experimental time scales. No thickness dependency of the glass transition temperature was observed within the error limits (±3 K)—neither at constant frequency (40 Hz) nor for the trace in the activation diagram (1 Hz–1 kHz). © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part B: Polym Phys 44: 2996–3005, 2006