With increasing interest in epoxy-based carbon fiber composites for structural applications, it is important to improve the fire resistant properties of these materials. The fire resistant performance of these materials can be improved either by using high performance epoxy resin for manufacturing carbon fiber composite or by protecting the previously used epoxy-based composite with some fire resistant coating. In this context, work is carried out to evaluate the fire resistance performance of recently emerged high performance polybenzimidazole (PBI) when used as a coating material. Furthermore, the effect of carbon nanofibers (CNFs) on fire resistant properties of inherently flame retardant PBI coating was studied. Thermogravimetric analysis of carbon/epoxy composite, unfilled PBI and nano-filled PBI shows that the carbon/epoxy composite maintained its thermal stability up to a temperature of 400°C and afterwards showed a large decrease in mass, while both unfilled PBI and nano-filled PBI have shown thermal stability up to a temperature of 575°C corresponding to only 11% weight loss. Cone calorimeter test results show that unfilled PBI coating did not improve the fire retardant performance of carbon/epoxy composite. Conversely, nano-filled PBI coating has shown a significant improvement in fire retardant performance of the carbon/epoxy composite in terms of increased ignition time, reduced average and peak heat release rate and reduced smoke and carbon monoxide emission. These results indicate that addition of carbon nanofibers to inherently flame retardant coating can significantly be helpful for improving the fire resistance performance of composite materials even with low coating thickness.
H. M. S. Iqbal, Stec, A. A., Patel, P., Shantanu Bhowmik, and Benedictus, R., “Study of the fire resistant behavior of unfilled and carbon nanofibers reinforced polybenzimidazole coating for structural applications”, Polymers for Advanced Technologies, vol. 25, pp. 29–35, 2014.