Polymeric materials often exhibit complex combustion behaviours encompassing several stages and involving solid phase, gas phase and interphase. A wide range of qualitative, semi-quantitative and quantitative testing techniques are currently available, both at the laboratory scale and for commercial purposes, for evaluating the decomposition and combustion behaviours of polymeric materials. They include, but are not limited to, techniques such as: thermo-gravimetric analysis (TGA), oxygen bomb calorimetry, limiting oxygen index measurements (LOI), Underwriters Laboratory 94 (UL-94) tests, cone calorimetry, etc.
However, none of the above mentioned techniques are capable of quantitatively deciphering the underpinning physiochemical processes leading to the melt flow behaviour of thermoplastics. Melt-flow of polymeric materials can constitute a serious secondary hazard in fire scenarios, for example, if they are present as component parts of a ceiling in an enclosure. In recent years, more quantitative attempts to measure the mass loss and melt-drip behaviour of some commercially important chain- and step-growth polymers have been accomplished. The present article focuses, primarily, on the experimental and some theoretical aspects of melt-flow behaviours of thermoplastics under heat/fire conditions.
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