Published: 02 October 2014

Surrey paper on new breed of polymers is lead story in key journal

Research conducted in the Department of Chemistry on polybenzoxazines – which could replace existing polymers in applications from adhesives to aircraft interiors – has been featured on the front cover of the ‘Journal of Polymer Science’.

The new research by Dr Ian Hamerton and Dr Brendan Howlin of the Department of Chemistry has furthered understanding on the thermal qualities of polymerised benzoxazines (the building blocks of the polymer), which offer some key benefits in fields such as aerospace, transport and electronics.

Due to the polymerisation process they undergo, these advanced materials develop their physical and mechanical properties far more quickly than currently-used polymers such as epoxy resins, leading to potential savings in production cycle times. In addition, they remain rigid at high temperatures – so can be used for load bearing purposes in high temperature environments – and are also able to resist combustion.

Dr Hamerton explained, “This is potentially very useful for aerospace applications, where fatalities are often caused not by a crash but by a post-crash fire. For example, in fatal airline accidents in the USA between 1981 and 1990, 40 per cent of the passengers who survived the impact of an aircraft accident subsequently died in post-crash fires.”

“The heat and flame retardant qualities of these polymers means that they may also have potential uses in microelectronics in printed circuit boards as glass fibre reinforced plastics (GFRP). Unlike brominated epoxy, which are currently used for this purpose, polybenzoxazines don’t produce halogens which damage the ozone layer. As environmental legislation moves ever closer to removing halogen-based flame-retardants, there is a lot of interest from industry in this potential new solution.”

Polymerised benzoxazines have been the subject of much research since the 1990s because of the great potential they offer in fields such as aerospace and microelectronics. At the forefront of this effort in the UK, the University of Surrey’s Polymeric Resins research group combines Dr Ian Hamerton’s expertise on the synthesis and characterisation of polymers with Dr Brendan Howlin’s expertise on computer modelling of polymers.

Dr Hamerton and Dr Howlin’s paper, ‘Explaining the kinetics of the thermal polymerisation of commercial aromatic bis-Benzoxazines’ is featured as the front cover story in the Journal of Polymer Science, 15 July 2014.


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