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Fire -safe polymers and polymer composites

Huiqing Zhang, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The intrinsic relationships between polymer structure, composition and fire behavior have been explored to develop new fire-safe polymeric materials. Different experimental techniques, especially three milligram-scale methods—pyrolysis-combustion flow calorimetry (PCFC), simultaneous thermal analysis (STA) and pyrolysis GC/MS—have been combined to fully characterize the thermal decomposition and flammability of polymers and polymer composites. Thermal stability, mass loss rate, char yield and properties of decomposition volatiles were found to be the most important parameters in determining polymer flammability. Most polymers decompose by either an unzipping or a random chain scission mechanism with an endothermic decomposition of 100–900 J/g. Aromatic or heteroaromatic rings, conjugated double or triple bonds and heteroatoms such as halogens, N, O, S, P and Si are the basic structural units for fire-resistant polymers. The flammability of polymers can also be successfully estimated by combining pyrolysis GC/MS results or chemical structures with TGA results. The thermal decomposition and flammability of two groups of inherently fire-resistant polymers—poly(hydroxyamide) (PHA) and its derivatives, and bisphenol C (BPC II) polyarylates—have been systematically studied. PHA and most of its derivatives have extremely low heat release rates and very high char yields upon combustion. PHA and its halogen derivatives can completely cyclize into quasi-polybenzoxazole (PBO) structures at low temperatures. However, the methoxy and phosphate derivatives show a very different behavior during decomposition and combustion. Molecular modeling shows that the formation of an enol intermediate is the rate-determining step in the thermal cyclization of PHA. BPC II-polyarylate is another extremely flame-resistant polymer. It can be used as an efficient flame-retardant agent in copolymers and blends. From PCFC results, the total heat of combustion of these copolymers or blends changes linearly with composition, but the change of maximum heat release rates also depends on the chemical structure of the components. The flammability of various polymers and polymer composites measured by PCFC, cone calorimeter ASTM E1354 and Ohio State University (OSU) calorimeter ASTM E906 were also compared. For pure polymers, there is a relatively good correlation between different methods. However, for polymer composites with inert fillers or flame-retardant additives, OSU and cone calorimetries are more suitable evaluation methods.

Subject Area

Materials science|Plastics|Polymers

Recommended Citation

Zhang, Huiqing, "Fire -safe polymers and polymer composites" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3110571.