Influence of physical properties on polymer flammability in the cone calorimeter

Patel, Parina, Hull, T Richard orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7970-4208, Stec, Anna A orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6861-0468 and Lyon, Richard E. (2011) Influence of physical properties on polymer flammability in the cone calorimeter. Polymers for Advanced Technologies, 22 (7). pp. 1100-1107. ISSN 1042-7147

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The relationship between physical properties and fire performance as measured in the cone calorimeter is not well understood. A number of studies have identified relationships between the physical and chemical properties of polymeric materials and their gasification behaviour which can be determined through numerical pyrolysis models. ThermaKin, a one-dimensional pyrolysis model, has recently been employed to predict the burning behaviour in fire calorimetry experiments. The range of thermal, chemical and optical properties of various polymers have been utilised to simulate
the processes occurring within a polymer exposed to a uniform heat flux, such as in a cone calorimeter. ThermaKin uses these material properties to predict the mass flux history in a cone calorimeter. Multiplying the mass flux history by the heat of combustion of the fuel gases gives the HRR history and these have been calculated for cone calorimeter experiments at 50 kW m-2 incident heat flux for the lowest, average and highest values of physical parameters exhibited by common
polymers. In contrast with actual experiments in fire retardancy, where several parameters change on incorporation of an additive, this study allows for the effect of each parameter to be seen in isolation. The parameters used in this study are grouped into physical properties (density, heat capacity and thermal conductivity), optical properties (absorption and reflectivity), and chemical properties (heat of decomposition, kinetic parameter and heat of combustion). The study shows
how the thermal decomposition kinetic parameters effect the surface burning (pyrolysis) temperature and resulting heat release rate history, as well as the relative importance of other properties directly related to the chemical composition. It also illustrates the effect of thermal inertia (the product of density, heat capacity and thermal conductivity) and of the samples’ ability to absorb radiant heat.

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