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Influence of water content on failure of phenolic composites in fire

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Geoff Gibson, Professor Mark RobinsonORCiD, Professor Adrian Mouritz


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This paper evaluates the structural performance of flame resistant phenolic matrix composites exposed to fire. Experimental fire tests were performed on a glass-phenolic composite under combined static loading and one-sided radiant heating. The reduction to the tension and compression failure strengths of the phenolic composite was measured in these tests for heat flux conditions ranging from 10 kW/m2 (∼225 °C) to 75 kW/m2 (∼700 °C). It was discovered that the failure strengths of the phenolic composite decreased rapidly in the event of fire, particularly under compressive loading when failure occurred more rapidly than under tensile loading. The phenolic composite, despite having high flame resistance, loses strength more rapidly and fails sooner than a more flammable vinyl ester composite. The study shows that greater flammability resistance does not necessarily result in better structural performance in fire. The poor structural performance of the phenolic composite was due to explosive delamination damage and cracking caused by vaporisation of water in the matrix phase. It is shown that removing water from phenolic composites by natural or artificial ageing reduces the incidence of delamination cracking and thereby improves the materials' structural performance in fire. It is concluded that phenolic composites do not provide good structural performance in fire, even though they have low flame and smoke properties. However, reducing the water content in the matrix phase below about 10% can greatly improve the structural performance of phenolic composites during fire. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Feih S, Mathys Z, Mathys G, Gibson AG, Robinson M, Mouritz AP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Polymer Degradation and Stability

Year: 2008

Volume: 93

Issue: 2

Pages: 376-382

Print publication date: 01/02/2008

ISSN (print): 0141-3910

ISSN (electronic): 1873-2321

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.polymdegradstab.2007.11.027


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