Redox cationic frontal polymerization: a new strategy towards fast and efficient curing of defect-free fiber reinforced polymer composites

Muhammad Salman Malik, Markus Wolfahrt, Sandra Schlögl

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Frontal polymerization of epoxy-based thermosets is a promising curing technique for the production of carbon fiber reinforced composites (CFRCs). It exploits the exothermicity of polymerization reactions to convert liquid monomers to a solid 3D network. A self-sustaining curing reaction is triggered by heat or UV-radiation, resulting in a localized thermal reaction zone that propagates through the resin formulation. To date, frontal polymerization is limited to CFRCs with a low fiber volume percent as heat losses compromise on the propagation of the heat front, which is crucial for this autocatalytic curing mechanism. In addition, the choice of suitable epoxy monomers and thermal radical initiators is limited, as highly reactive cycloaliphatic epoxies as well as peroxides decarboxylate during radical induced cationic frontal polymerization. The resulting networks suffer from high defect rates and inferior mechanical properties. Herein, we overcome these shortcomings by introducing redox cationic frontal polymerization (RCFP) as a new frontal curing concept. In the first part of this study, the influence of stannous octoate (reducing agent) was studied on a frontally cured bisphenol A diglycidyl ether resin and mechanical and thermal properties were compared to a conventional anhydride cured counterpart. In a subsequent step, a quasi-isotropic CFRC with a fiber volume of >50 vol%, was successfully cured via RCFP. The composite exhibited a glass transition temperature > 100 °C and a low number of defects. Finally, it was demonstrated that the redox agent effectively prevents decarboxylation during frontal polymerization of a cycloaliphatic epoxy, demonstrating the versatility of RCFP in future applications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28993-29003
Number of pages11
JournalRSC Advances
Issue number41
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2023

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