Multiscale Thermal Property Measurements for Biomedical Applications

Harishankar Natesan, John C. Bischof

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Bioheat transfer-based innovations in health care include applications such as focal treatments for cancer and cardiovascular disease and the preservation of tissues and organs for transplantation. In these applications, the ability to preserve or destroy a biomaterial is directly dependent on its temperature history. Thus, thermal measurement and modeling are necessary to either avoid or induce the injury required. In this review paper, we will first define and discuss thermal conductivity and calorimetric measurements of biomaterials in the cryogenic (<-40 °C), subzero (<0 °C), hypothermic (<37 °C), and hyperthermic (>37 °C) regimes. For thermal conductivity measurements, we review the use of 3ω and laser flash techniques for measurement of thermal conductivity in thin (1 μm-2 mm thick), anisotropic, and/or multilayered tissues. At the nanoscale, we review the use of pump-probe and scanning probe methods to measure thermal conductivity at short temporal scales (10 ps-100 ns) and spatial scales (1 nm-1 μm), particularly in the coating and surrounding medium around metallic nanoparticles (1 nm-20 nm). For calorimetric techniques, we review differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), which is intrinsically at the microscale (e.g., tissue pieces or millions of cells in media). DSC is used with large sample mass (∼3-100 mg) over wide temperature ranges (-180 to 750 °C) with low-temperature scanning rates (<750 °C/min). The need to assess smaller samples at higher rates has led to the development of nanocalorimetry on a silicon based membrane. Here the sample weight is as low as 10 ng, thereby allowing ultra-rapid heating rates (∼1 × 107 C/min). Finally, we discuss various opportunities that are driving the need for new micro- and nanoscale thermal measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2669-2691
Number of pages23
JournalACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 13 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from Minnesota Partnership grant, the National Science Foundation (CBET Grant #1236760), and a Doctoral Degree Fellowship from the University of Minnesota.


  • bioheat transfer
  • biomaterials
  • calorimetry
  • multiscale thermal property measurement
  • nanoparticles
  • thermal conductivity
  • thin tissues


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