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Char Enhancing Approaches to Flame Retarding Polymers



Jeffrey W. Gilman, Takashi Kashiwagi, Richard H. Harris Jr., S M. Lomakin, J D. Lichtenhan, A. Bolf, P. Jones


Additives that increase the amount of charcoal-like residue or carbonaceous char that forms during polymer combustion are very effective fire retardants (FR). Our research efforts focus on reducing polymer flammability by promoting char formation. Our approach to char promotion is to investigate additives which enhance charring, and to gain a fundamental understanding of the additives' mechamism of char formation with the goal of optimizing their performance. Char formation reduces the amount of small, volatile polymer pyrolysis fragments, or fuel, available for burning in the gas phase; this in turn reduces the amount of heat released and fed back to the polymer surface. The char also insulates the underlying polymer, due to its low thermal conductivity, and reradiates incident energy away from the polymer surface. The char must also function as a mass transport barrier, by physically delaying the volatilization of decomposition products and/or chemically reacting with decomposition products. The physical structure of the char is important in this role. Thick, foamy char appears to be more fire resistant than brittle, thin char. This char enhancing approach is most successful when the polymer chars rapidly and early in the burning process. To be useful, the charring process must occur at a temperature above the polymer processing temperature, but below the temperature where rapid gasification of the polymer to combustible fuel occurs.
Proceedings Title
ADDITIVES'98 Meeting. Proceedings
Conference Dates
February 1, 1998
Conference Location
Orlando, FL


char, flame retardants, boric acid, char formation, cone calorimeters, calorimetry, preceramics, polypropylene, silica, zirconium oxide


Gilman, J. , Kashiwagi, T. , Harris, R. , Lomakin, S. , Lichtenhan, J. , Bolf, A. and Jones, P. (1998), Char Enhancing Approaches to Flame Retarding Polymers, ADDITIVES'98 Meeting. Proceedings, Orlando, FL, [online], (Accessed April 17, 2024)
Created February 1, 1998, Updated February 19, 2017