Thermal stability and ablation properties of silicone rubber composites



Effects of incorporation of clay and carbon fiber (CF) into a high temperature vulcanized (HTV) silicone rubber, i.e., poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) containing vinyl groups, on its thermal stability and ablation properties were explored through thermogravimetric analyses (TGA) and oxy-acetylene torch tests. Natural clay, sodium montmorillonite (MMT), was modified with a silane compound bearing tetra sulfide (TS) groups to prepare MMTS4: the TS groups may react with the vinyl groups of HTV and enhance the interfacial interaction between the clay and HTV. MMTS4 layers were better dispersed than MMT layers in the respective composites with exfoliated/intercalated coexisting morphology. According to TGA results and to the insulation index, the HTV/MMTS4 composite was more thermally stable than HTV/MMT. However, addition of CF to the composites lowered their thermal stability, because of the high thermal conductivity of CF. The time elapsed for the composite specimen, loaded with a constant weight, to break off after the oxy-acetylene flame bursts onto the surface of the specimen was employed as an index for an integrated assessment of the ablation properties, simultaneously taking into consideration the mechanical strength of the char and the rate of decomposition. The elapsed time increased in the order of: HTV < HTV/CF ≈ HTV/MMTS4 < HTV/CF/MMTS4 ≈ HTV/MMT < HTV/CF/MMT. This order was different from the increasing order of the thermal stability determined by TGA results and the insulation index. The decreased degree of crosslinking of the composites with MMTS4 compared with that of the composite with MMT may be unfavorable for the formation of a mechanically strong char and could lead to early rupture of the HTV/MMTS4 specimen. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci, 2008