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Flame retardancy of microcellular poly(lactic acid) foams prepared by supercritical CO2-assisted extrusion

Flame-retardant-treated cellulose (FR-cell) was used as bio-based charring agent in combination with ammonium polyphosphate (APP) based intumescent flame retardant (IFR) system to reduce the flammability of poly(lactic acid) (PLA) foams produced by supercritical carbon dioxide (sc-CO2) assisted extrusion. FR-cell was obtained by surface treatment of cellulose with diammonium phosphate (DAP) and boric acid (BA). To enhance foamability, the inherently low melt strength and slow crystallization rate of PLA was increased by adding epoxy-based chain extender (CE) and montmorillonite (MMT) nanoclay, respectively. The morphology of the foams was examined using water displacement method, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDS). Thermal properties were assessed using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA). Flammability was evaluated by limiting oxygen index (LOI) measurements, UL-94 tests and pyrolysis combustion flow calorimetry (PCFC). The continuous extrusion foaming technique allowed the preparation of low density PLA foams with uniform microcellular structure and void fractions higher than 90% accompanied with increased crystallinity of up to 19%. Despite the high expansion ratios (i.e. high surface area), the PLA foams showed excellent flame retardancy, UL-94 V-0 rate and LOI value of 31.5?vol% was achieved with an additive content as small as 19.5%. However, the flame retardant synergism evinced between IFR and MMT proved to be less pronounced in the expanded foams compared to bulk materials with identical additive contents.

» Author: Dániel Vadas, Tamás Igricz, Johan Sarazin, Serge Bourbigot, György Marosi, Katalin Bocz

» Reference: Polymer Degradation and Stability

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This project has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° [310187].