Fire-Retardant Polymeric Additives

Mechanical properties are retained or even enhanced.

Polyhydroxyamide (PHA) and polymethoxyamide (PMeOA) are fire-retardant (FR) thermoplastic polymers and have been found to be useful as an additive for imparting fire retardant properties to other compatible, thermoplastic polymers (including some elastomers). Examples of compatible flammable polymers include nylons, polyesters, and acrylics. Unlike most prior additives, PHA and PMeOA do not appreciably degrade the mechanical properties of the matrix polymer; indeed, in some cases, mechanical properties are enhanced. Also, unlike some prior additives, PHA and PMeOA do not decompose into large amounts of corrosive or toxic compounds during combustion and can be processed at elevated temperatures.

PMeOA derivative formulations were synthesized and used as an FR additive in the fabrication of polyamide (PA) and polystyrene (PS) composites with notable reduction (>30 percent for PS) in peak heat release rates compared to the neat polymer as measured by a Cone Calorimeter (ASTM E1354). Synergistic effects were noted with nanosilica composites. These nanosilica composites had more than 50-percent reduction in peak heat release rates.

In a typical application, a flammable thermoplastic, thermoplastic blend, or elastomer that one seeks to render flame-retardant is first dry-mixed with PHA or PMeOA or derivative thereof. The proportion of PHA or PMeOA or derivative in the mixture is typically chosen to lie between 1 and 20 weight percent. The dry blend can then be meltextruded. The extruded polymer blend can further be extruded and/or molded into fibers, pipes, or any other of a variety of objects that may be required to be fire-retardant.

The physical and chemical mechanisms which impart flame retardancy of the additive include inhibiting free-radical oxidation in the vapor phase, preventing vaporization of fuel (the polymer), and cooling through the formation of chemical bonds in either the vapor or the condensed phase. Under thermal stress, the cyclic hydroxyl/methoxy component forms polybenzoxazole (PBO) in a reaction that absorbs heat from its surroundings. PBO under thermal stress cross-links, forming a protective char layer, which thermally insulates the polymer. Thus, the formation of the char layer further assists to extinguish the fire by preventing vaporization of the polymeric fuel.

This work was done by Martha K. Williams and Trent M. Smith of Kennedy Space Center. For further information, contact the Kennedy Innovative Partnerships Office at (321) 861-7158. KSC-12697

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