Efficient Heat Shielding of Steel with Multilayer Nanocomposite Thin Film

In an effort to protect metal substrates from extreme heat, polymer–clay multilayer thin films are studied as expendable thermal barrier coatings. Nanocomposite films with a thickness ranging from 2 to 35 μm were deposited on steel plates and exposed to the flame from a butane torch. The 35 μm coating, composed of 14 deposited bilayers of tris(hydroxymethyl)aminomethane (THAM)-buffered polyethylenimine (PEI) and vermiculite clay (VMT), decreased the maximum temperature observed on the back side of a 0.32 cm thick steel plate by over 100 °C when heated with a butane torch. Upon exposure to high temperature, the polymer and amine salt undergo pyrolysis and intumesce, subsequently forming a char and blowing gas. The char encases the nanoclay platelets, and a ceramic bubble is formed. The macro-scale bubble, in tandem with the nanocomposite coating properties, increases resistance to heat transfer into the underlying metal substrate. This heat shielding behavior occurs through radiative effects and low aggregate through-plane conductivity resulting from multilayer nanodomains and intumesced porosity (i.e., conduction through the gas as the film expands to form a ceramic bubble). These relatively thin and lightweight films could be used to protect important metal parts (in automobiles, aircraft, etc.) from fire-related damage or other types of transient high-temperature situations.

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C. T. Long, R. Wang, C. Shoalmire, D. S. Antao, P. J. Shamberger, J. C. Grunlan, ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2021, 13, 16, 19369-19376.