Polymer composite provides better fire protection than steel

March 27, 2006

The U.S. Navy needs lighter materials so ships will go further faster. One way to do that is to use new composite materials. But how will these materials respond to fire -- one of the most critical safety concerns on a ship? Virginia Tech material scientists have developed models to test composites for fire resistance – and have a recommendation.

John Bausano, a doctoral student in the chemistry-engineering interdisciplinary Macromolecular Science and Infrastructure Engineering program at Virginia Tech, will present his research in the Excellence in Graduate Polymer Science Research Symposium at the 231st American Chemical Society National Meeting in Atlanta on March 26-30.

Working with Jack Lesko, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics, Bausano developed a testing method – a one-sided heat flux test that can be used on a sample as small as one inch by six inches (1x6") to test a commercially available material – E-glass vinyl ester composite laminates. One side of the material is heated to simulate fire on one side of a wall. A load is placed on one edge to simulate a load-bearing wall. "We measure the deflection, failure, and how hot it gets on the cool side," said Bausano. "That is an important issue because you don't want the fire to spread."

His findings are that the composite material being tested does localize heat, "especially compared to steel, which conducts heat in all directions."

His recommendation as other materials and processing are considered is, "Develop the material with as high a glass transition (Tg) temperature as you can in order to sustain structural rigidity. That would help the engineers and the sailors. The longer the material stays above Tg, or the softening point, the longer the wall will stand. Tg is the upper temperature level of usefulness."

Composite materials would also be useful on oil platforms, where fire is also a concern, he said.

Source: Virginia Tech

Explore further: Toxic flame retardants are a burning issue

Related Stories

Toxic flame retardants are a burning issue

January 17, 2018

Flame retardants are an integral part of creating products from plastics to textiles that are fire friendly. However, many of the flame retardants in use are toxic and damaging for the environment. Dr. Giulio Malucelli has ...

Paints and varnishes based on potato starch

January 3, 2018

If a surface has to be protected against corrosion, in 80 percent of all cases this takes place through coating it with paints or varnishes. When doing so, the proportion of bio-based, environmentally-friendly solutions is ...

Exploring alien worlds with lasers

January 10, 2018

In everyday life we look and touch things to find out what they are made of. A powerful scientific technique does the same using lasers – and in two years' time it will fly in space for the first time.

Recommended for you

Neutron-star merger yields new puzzle for astrophysicists

January 18, 2018

The afterglow from the distant neutron-star merger detected last August has continued to brighten - much to the surprise of astrophysicists studying the aftermath of the massive collision that took place about 138 million ...

A new polymer raises the bar for lithium-sulfur batteries

January 18, 2018

Lithium-sulfur batteries are promising candidates for replacing common lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles since they are cheaper, weigh less, and can store nearly double the energy for the same mass. However, lithium-sulfur ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.