Fire and resistant polymers -- Mechanical properties, Fire resistant polymers -- Design and construction, Fire resistant polymers -- Thermal properties, Nanocomposites (Materials), Polymeric composites


Compared to conventional materials, polymer matrix composites (PMCs) have a number of attractive properties, including light weight, easiness of installation, potential to lower system-level cost, high overall durability, and less susceptibility to environmental deterioration. However, PMCs are vulnerable to fire such that they degrade, decompose, and sometimes yield toxic gases at high temperature. The degradation and decomposition of composites lead to loss in mass, resulting in loss in mechanical strength. This research aims to improve the structural integrity of the PMCs under fire conditions by designing and optimizing a fire retardant nanopaper coating, and to fundamentally understand the thermal response and post-fire mechanical behavior the PMCs through numerical modeling. Specifically, a novel paper-making process that combined carbon nanofiber, nanoclay, exfoliated graphite nanoplatelet, and ammonium polyphosphate into a self-standing nanopaper was developed. The nanopaper was then coated onto the surface of the PMCs to improve the fire retardant performance of the material. The morphology, thermal stability, flammability, and post-fire flexural modulus of the nanopaper coated-PMCs were characterized. The fire retardant mechanism of the nanopaper coating was studied. Upon successfully improving the structure integrity of the PMCs by the nanopaper coatings, a thermal degradation model that captured the decomposition reaction of the iv polymer matrix with a second kind boundary condition (constant heat flux) was solved using Finite Element (FE) method. The weak form of the model was constructed by the weighted residual method. The model quantified the thermal and post-fire flexural responses of the composites subject to continuously applied heat fluxes. A temperature dependent post-fire residual modulus was assigned to each element in the FE domain. The bulk residual modulus was computed by assembling the modulus of each element. Based on the FE model, a refined Finite Difference (FD) model was developed to predict the fire response of the PMCs coated with the nanopapers. The FD model adopted the same post-fire mechanical evaluation method. However, unlike the FE model, the flow of the decomposed gas, and permeability and porosity of the composites were taken into account in the refined FD model. The numerical analysis indicated that the thickness and porosity of the composites had a profound impact on the thermal response of the composites. The research funding from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Federal Aviation Administration Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation (FAA COE AST) is acknowledged.


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Graduation Date





Gou, Jihua


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Mechanical Engineering








Release Date

May 2012

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Engineering and Computer Science, Engineering and Computer Science -- Dissertations, Academic