Polymers and foams are pervasive in everyday life, as well as in specialized contexts such as space exploration, industry, and defense. They are frequently subject to shock loading in the latter cases, and will chemically decompose to small molecule gases and carbon (soot) under loads of sufficient strength. We review a body of work—most of it performed at Los Alamos National Laboratory—on polymers and foams under extreme conditions. To provide some context, we begin with a brief review of basic concepts in shockwave physics, including features particular to transitions (chemical reaction or phase transition) entailing an abrupt reduction in volume. We then discuss chemical formulations and synthesis, as well as experimental platforms used to interrogate polymers under shock loading. A high-level summary of equations of state for polymers and their decomposition products is provided, and their application illustrated. We then present results including temperatures and product compositions, thresholds for reaction, wave profiles, and some peculiarities of traditional modeling approaches. We close with some thoughts regarding future work.
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