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  • Writer's pictureJanet Kohlmorgen

Fire retardant epoxy-based gelcoats

Scientists describe the development of fire retardant epoxy-based gelcoats for carbon fibre reinforced epoxy resin composites.

The research article focuses on the development of multifunctional, flame retarded epoxy gelcoat formulations based on phosphorus-containing, intumescent flame retardant (FR).

The researchers prepared epoxy resin-based gelcoats with 5 %, 10 % and 15 % phosphorus (P) content using ammonium polyphosphate (APP), and compared their thermal stability, glass transition temperature, crosslinking reaction enthalpy and fire performance to the non-flame retarded reference and a commercial FR gelcoat.

Increased thermal stability

They coated carbon fibre reinforced pentaerythritol (PER)-based epoxy composites (non-FR, and FR) with these gelcoats in two thicknesses (0.5 mm and 1.0 mm). The APP-based gelcoats outperformed both the commercial reference and FR gelcoat in terms of thermal stability. When the APP concentration in the gelcoat was increased, the thermal stability and the limiting oxygen index (LOI) increased.

In terms of heat release rate, the gelcoat with 10 % P from APP behaved similarly, while the formulation with 15 % P from APP outperformed the commercial FR gelcoat. The tendency in the fire performance of the coated composites was similar to the behaviour of the gelcoat matrices: above 10 % P content, the coated sample outperformed the commercial FR gelcoat. The addition of a liquid, organophosphorus flame retardant (resorcinol bis(diphenyl phosphate) (RDP), acting mainly in the gas phase) to the epoxy matrix of the composite resulted in the further decrease of heat release rate.

The scientists reached a 67 % reduction in peak heat release rate when they replaced a 1 mm thick non-FR gelcoat with a gelcoat containing 15 % P on the PER reference composite.

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