Fire performance of charring closed-cell polymeric insulation materials: polyisocyanurate and phenolic foam

Juan Hidalgo-Medina, Jose L. Torero, Stephen Welch

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Results are presented from two series of ad-hoc experimental programmes using the Cone Calorimeter to investigate the burning behaviour of charring closed-cell polymeric insulation materials, specifically polyisocyanurate (PIR) and phenolic (PF) foams. These insulation materials are widely used in the construction industry due to their relatively low thermal conductivity. However, they are combustible in nature; therefore, their fire performance needs to be carefully studied, and characterisation of their thermal degradation and burning behaviour is required in support of performance-based approaches for fire safety design. The first series of experiments was used to examine the flaming and smouldering of the char from PIR and PF. The peak heat release rate per unit area was within the range of 120 to 170 kW·m-2 for PIR and 80 to 140 kW·m-2 for PF. The effective heat of combustion during flaming was within the range of 13 to 16 kJ·g-1 for PIR and around 16 kJ·g-1 for PF, while the CO/CO2 ratio was within 0.05 to 0.10 for PIR and 0.025 to 0.05 for PF. The second experimental programme served to map the thermal degradation processes of pyrolysis and oxidation in relation to temperature measurements within the solid-phase under constant levels of nominal irradiation. Both programmes showed that surface regression due to smouldering was more significant for PF than PIR under the same heat exposure conditions, essentially because of the different degree of overlap in pyrolysis and oxidation reactions. The smouldering of the char was found to self-extinguish after removal of the external heat source.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFire and Materials
Early online date16 Jan 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jan 2018


  • nsulation materials; Charring foams; Pyrolysis; Smouldering; Combustion; Performance-based design


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