At about 41°C, the PUR-160 mixture becomes clear and there is a decrease in viscosity, but by 63° the viscosity of PUR-160 is higher than it was at room temperature and viscosity rises steadily as the material begins to cure.
The V-225 system displays a minimum viscosity at 52°C but in contrast to PUR-160, viscosity remains below the viscosity at room temperature until 77°C is reached. At this temperature, the material exhibits snap-cure behaviour with rapid conversion to a cured material.
The ability to maintain a low viscosity for an extended time enables the production of large composite parts.
This experimental information is encouraging, but it is important to understand the viscosity profiles of the resin systems under conditions simulating RTM moulding operations. To do this we measured the way that viscosity changed with time under constant (isothermal) temperature conditions.
The viscosity profiles at 60°C, shown in Figure 2, show the snap-cure behaviour of the V-225 system. Initially there is a drop in viscosity for both PUR-160 and V-225 as the material heats up to 60°C. Both materials then begin a slow increase in viscosity as curing starts and progresses. The viscosity of V-225 remains very low until snap-curing after about seven minutes.
The rapid, full-cure property would enable parts to be de-moulded shortly after resin injection. Because polyurethane chemistry is very flexible, it is possible to adjust the temperature at which the snap-cure starts and the time taken for the polyurethane part to gel sufficiently for a safe de-mould. By tailoring these properties to the production process it would be possible to give the lowest possible cycle time.
Table 2 gives typical mechanical property data for the two epoxy and six urethane materials for neat resin plaques prepared with the indicated cure temperatures and times. If the ultimate Tg of the material is above the initial cure temperature a post-cure was added to complete the curing process. The times used were not optimised to indicate the fastest available cure cycle, rather they were used simply to prepare the plaques for evaluation.
The key benefits of polyurethane systems over other materials are their greater toughness. This is shown in Table 2 through the tensile yield strength and tensile break strain, the flex strain, and the un-notched Izod tests.
The tensile modulus and tensile strengths of the epoxy and urethane materials all fall in the same range with no significant differences between the materials for a given Tg.
The key differences between epoxy and polyurethane materials are the yield observed in the PUR samples and the increased tensile break strain exhibited by the PUR and V systems.
The improvement in the tensile strain of the polyurethane materials is achieved without sacrificing the tensile modulus and tensile strength.
Comparing two materials with equivalent Tg: the standard epoxy (Tg = 140°C) and the V-135 (Tg = 135°C), shows the tensile break strain of V-135 is 88% higher than the standard epoxy. V-135 fails at 8.5%, the standard epoxy at 4.5%.
The tensile strain at break for V-135 is higher and it has the same tensile strength as the standard epoxy. This shows that it has a higher toughness. Likewise, comparing the high Tg epoxy (Tg = 195°C) to the V-225 (Tg = 225°C) shows tensile strain at break is 15% higher for V-225 at 2.3% even though its Tg is 30°C higher than the epoxy which failed at 2%. In this case the higher tensile strength for an equivalent tensile break strain indicates a higher toughness for the V-225.
Similar observations are seen in the flexural property measurements where the improvements in flexural break strain occur independently of the flexural modulus and flex strength.
In flexion, PUR materials yield and do not break which shows toughness, the V systems demonstrate high flexural break strains.
The most direct measurement of toughness that was measured was the Unnotched Izod Impact Test (UIIT). The impact strength of the systems was inversely related to Tg: samples with lower Tg gave highest impact values; samples from formulations with higher Tg gave the lowest impact values.
As with the tensile break strain and flexural break strain, it is best to compare values from materials with equivalent Tg. This comparison can be found by plotting the unnotched Izod impact value versus the Tg of the material. An improvement is easily seen for all Tgs and as an example, a comparison shows that the V-135 UIIT value is 66% higher than the standard epoxy.
Applications of the new urethane chemistry
This advanced polyurethane chemistry has greatly expanded the ability to use urethane chemistry for composite applications and resulted in new resin systems offering material processing advantages over incumbent materials
The new materials can be processed using methods that were not possible with standard urethane systems. Table 3 shows the fit between the urethane systems and five different processing methods. The colour of the box indicates the suitability of a resin system with a given processing method. A green box means that the resin/processing combination has been used to prepare either glass or carbon fibre parts. The yellow box shows that a system would be expected to be compatible but it has not yet been demonstrated. The red boxes indicate that the resin would not be a candidate material for the given process method (for instance the high initial viscosity and the viscosity build versus time of PUR-160 would be problematic for vacuum infusion).
A wide range of parts can be made with processes using one of the urethane resins. For example, carbon fibre composite tubes made via filament winding that were subsequently post-cured in an oven. Carbon fibre tubes as long as eight meters have been made with V-225.
A collection of pieces of pultruded parts showing the wide variety of profiles and constructions are possible with urethane chemistry. Products have been made with either glass, basalt, or carbon fibre and with or without additional fillers. Urethanes have been demonstrated to run at high production speeds with minimal scrap or down time.
Carbon fibre composite made by vacuum infusion with perimeter injection and a central outlet and degas point. The low viscosity and long open time of the V-225 urethane produced a 110 X 120 cm part with very good infusion of the resin into the fibres.
This is an edited version of a paper presented at the CPI conference in Phoenix, Arizona in September 2013.
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David Bareis is a market development manager for Urethane Composites in Huntsman Polyurethanes Business Development. For over 20 years at Hunstman David has been involved in the development and commercialisation of polyurethane systems for automotive and composite applications.
Dan Heberer, Ph.D. is a graduate of the Polymer Science Department at the University of Akron. His career has primarily focused on the development and commercialisation of adhesives for automotive applications. Currently he is a technical manager at Huntsman Polyurethanes.