Precise scanning calorimeter for studying thermal properties of biological macromolecules in dilute solution

George Privalov, Vincent Kavina, Ernesto Freire, Peter L. Privalov

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169 Scopus citations


A precise scanning calorimeter for studying the heat capacity of liquids in a broad temperature range has been developed. By its design and capabilities this calorimeter is the first of a new generation for this type of instrument. This new scanning calorimeter operates differentially, is equipped with a pair of gold capillary cells and semiconductor sensors, and is able to scan up and down in temperature at user-selected rates. This instrument is completely operated by an integrated computer which also provides a full thermodynamic analysis of the results. Its construction does not involve the use of organic compounds, thus eliminating a source of baseline noise that has affected previous calorimeters. The operational temperature range of the instrument can be varied between 0 and 120°C. The gold capillary cells (operational volume 0.8 ml) minimize temperature gradients in the heated/cooled liquid sample and permit easy washing and reloading without air bubbles. These features are crucial for the accuracy of difference heat capacity measurements and determination of the absolute value of the partial heat capacity of solute molecules. The measurements can be performed under an excess constant pressure (up to 3 atm) to prevent formation of gas bubbles and boiling of aqueous solutions above 100°C. The noise level of the recorded heating/cooling power difference is below 50 × 10-9W (i.e., below 10 ncal/s) with a response half-time of 5 s. The reproducibility of the baseline without refilling the capillary cells is on the order of 0.5 × 10-6W. Reproducibility of the baseline upon refilling the cell is of the same order of magnitude. This provides an accuracy in difference heat capacity determination on the order of 10 μcal/°K·ml at a heating rate of 1°K/min.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-85
Number of pages7
JournalAnalytical biochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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