Polymer engineering is the science of mixing dissimilar polymers to create materials with even more valuable properties than those of the individual component polymers. This includes plastic composites, which are made from a variety of materials that may be chemically modified to alter their properties and performance.
A prior Producing Polymers and Plastics blog discussed why polymer composites are widely used in the aerospace industry for many exterior components including the fuselage, wing skins and tips, and tail cone. The May issue of Plastics Engineering reports that plastic composite materials are increasingly being used to make interior as well as exterior aircraft parts. The article explains that thermoplastic composite (TPC) technologies are especially suited to aircraft interior parts such as floor, ceiling, door, and sidewall panels; overhead storage bins; window surrounds; ducting and bracketry; galley and lavatory components; passenger-service units; and bulkheads/partitions.
High-performance TPCs generally provide higher toughness (impact strength), lower mass, and better surfaces out of the press (reducing finishing costs/time) required of these parts. Most provide excellent thermal stability at elevated temperatures. TPCs mold faster, which makes them less expensive to manufacture, and they have an extremely long shelf-life at room temperature, so they can be stored longer than some thermosets. And, some TPC parts are even recyclable. (Read the ISRI fact sheet, The Scrap Recycling Industry: Plastics.)
Because the interplay between components in polymer composites is complex, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy is often used to verify the correct co-polymer blend ratio or quantify the amount of release agent, UV stabilizer, or other additives in the mix.
FTIR can provide rapid and accurate quantitative analysis of polymer constituents and additives and for determination of crystallinity and monomeric ratios in copolymers. Attenuated Total Reflectance (ATR) simplifies the analysis of polymer surfaces even further through a simple contact-and-collect process.
FTIR spectroscopy can be applied across all phases of the product lifecycle including design, manufacture, and failure analysis to quickly and definitively identify compounds such as compounded plastics, blends, fillers, paints, rubbers, coatings, resins, and adhesives. This makes it a useful tool for scientists and engineers involved in product development, quality control, and problem solving.
To learn more FTIR and the best sampling techniques available for polymer analysis, visit the FTIR Spectroscopy Academy.