Flame retardancy of polymer nanocomposites

Işıtman, Nihat Ali
This thesis is aimed to understand the role of nanofiller type, nanofiller dispersion, nanofiller geometry, and, presence of reinforcing fibers in flame retardancy of polymer nanocomposites. For this purpose, montmorillonite nanoclays, multi-walled carbon nanotubes, halloysite clay nanotubes and silica nanoparticles were used as nanofillers in polymeric matrices of poly (methyl methacrylate) (PMMA), high-impact polystyrene (HIPS), polylactide (PLA) and polyamide-6 (PA6) containing certain conventional flame retardant additives. Furthermore, the influence of nanofiller and flame retardant additives on fiber/matrix interfacial interactions was studied. Materials were prepared by twin-screw extrusion melt-mixing and ultrasound-assisted solution-mixing techniques. Characterization of nanocomposite morphology was done by X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy. Flame retardancy was investigated by mass loss cone calorimetry, limiting oxygen index measurements and UL94 standard tests. Flame retardancy mechanisms were revealed by characterization of solid fire residues by scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, infrared spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction. Thermal degradation and stability was studied using thermogravimetric analysis. Mechanical properties were determined by tension tests and fracture surfaces were observed under scanning electron microscope. Influence of nanofiller type was investigated comparing the behavior of montmorillonite nanoclay and multi-walled carbon nanotube reinforced PMMA nanocomposites containing phosphorous/nitrogenous intumescent flame retardant. Carbon nanotubes hindered the formation of intumescent inorganic phosphate barrier which caused the samples to be exposed to larger effective heat fluxes during combustion. Contrarily, nanoclays physically reinforced the protective barrier without disrupting the intumescent character, thereby allowing for lower heat release and mass loss rates, and increased amounts of residue upon combustion. Influence of nanofiller dispersion was studied comparing nanocomposite and microcomposite morphologies in montmorillonite nanoclay reinforced HIPS containing aluminum hydroxide flame retardant. Relative to microcomposite morphology, reductions in peak heat release rates were doubled along with higher limiting oxygen index and lower burning rates with nanocomposite formation. Improved flame retardancy was attributed to increased amounts of char residue and lower mass loss rates. Nanocomposite formation allowed for the recovery of tensile strength reductions caused by high loading level of the conventional flame retardant additive in polymer matrix. Influence of nanofiller geometry was investigated for phosphorus based intumescent flame-retarded PLA nanocomposites. Fire performance was increased in the order of rod-like (1-D) < spherical (0-D) << plate-like (2-D) geometries which matched qualitatively with the effective surface area of nanoparticles in the nanocomposite. Well-dispersed plate-like nanoparticles rapidly migrated and accumulated on exposed sample surface resulting in the formation of strong aluminum phosphate/montmorillonite nanocomposite residue. Mechanical properties were increased in the order of 0-D < 1-D < 2-D nanofillers corresponding to the order of their effective aspect ratios in the nanocomposite. Influence of fiber reinforcement was studied for montmorillonite nanoclay containing short-glass fiber-reinforced, phosphorus/nitrogen based flame-retarded PA6 composites. Substitution of a certain fraction of conventional additive with nanofiller significantly reduced peak heat release rate, delayed ignition and improved limiting oxygen index along with maintained UL94 ratings. Improved flame retardancy was ascribed to the formation of a nanostructured carbonaceous boron/aluminum phosphate barrier reinforced by well-dispersed montmorillonite nanolayers. Fiber/matrix interfacial interactions in flame-retarded PA6 and HIPS containing nanoclays were investigated using a micromechanical approach, and it was found that the influence of nanoclay on the interface depends on crystallinity of polymer matrix. While the fiber/matrix interfacial strength is reduced with nanoclay incorporation into amorphous matrix composites, significant interfacial strengthening was imparted by large surface area, well-dispersed clay nanolayers acting as heterogeneous nucleation sites for the semi-crystalline matrix.