New ARC Discovery Project – Engineered interlayers of bio-retardant and nano-reinforcement on polymers

Our ARC Discovery Project (DP220101427) entitled “Engineered interlayers of bio-retardant and nano-reinforcement on polymers” led by CIs Prof Guan Heng Yeoh and Dr Anthony Chun Yin Yuen has been successful (totalling 332.3k). In collaboration with PI Prof Jaime Grunlan @TAMU, we aim to develop a highly effective lightweight coating for polymeric materials, with the aid of Molecular Dynamics (MD) and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modelling approaches to strengthen our understanding of the interlayers and their influence on the flammability reductions.

The project aims to theoretically and experimentally develop a polymer interlayer that possesses the functionalities of bio-retardant and nano-reinforcement to enhance the charring, thermal and fire resistance. These aims will be achieved by realising the following objectives:

  1. Developing highly effective engineered lightweight coating via the layer-by-layer (LbL) assembly to innovatively fabricate bio-retardant agents and 2D sheet-like nanomaterials on polymers. Selected processes of activating polymer surfaces and identifying appropriate interconnectivity between each interlayer through covalent bonding will be investigated,
  2. Assessing the flammability and toxicity properties of lightweight coated polymers. Micro-scale visualisations of the morphological structures of engineered interlayers will be probed to determine the structural packing of nano-fillers with bio-retardant agents for integrity and efficacy in protecting the polymer substrates. Optimal thickness and concentration of each interlayer will be experimentally determined for flammability reduction and limiting asphyxiant gases and smoke releases,
  3. Utilising molecular dynamics (MD) to better understand the processes associated with thermal and mass diffusion as well as oxidation resulting from the breaking of chemical bonds in each interlayer that will lead to the formation of char and release of combustible gas volatiles at elevated temperatures. A comprehensive pyrolysis model due to thermal degradation of lightweight coated polymers via analysis of reaction pathways and associated kinetics will be formulated, and
  4. Validating macro-model predictions against experimental measurements to yield a novel fire assessment tool to better predict the fire propagation behaviour, char layer, toxic gases and smoke releases of lightweight coated polymers.

The successful delivery of the expected outcomes will bring significant benefits to the field of fire safety science, fire retardant materials and fire simulation research, providing an effective design tool for fire safety engineering design and analysis of synthetic materials made from polymers in practical building fires and fire investigation studies.