The recently approved restriction on diisocyanates highlights the health and safety issues concerning polyurethane manufacturing and the relevance of developing sustainable insulating polymeric foams. This is particularly challenging for applications where the foam is subjected to high temperatures (>80°C) and bear loads, such as insulating and bonding material for district heating pipes.
As part of a PhD project concerning pre-insulated district heating pipes for the circular economy, polybutylene (PB-1) has been identified as a promising candidate for the application, due to its low thermal conductivity, high temperature mechanical properties retention, excellent environmental stress cracking resistance (ESCR) and outstanding creep resistance. It is a recyclable thermoplastic and of non-toxic nature, pre-requisites for circular product development. On the contrary to other polyolefins, PB-1 is reported to strain-harden and has high melt strength, required properties for foaming. The purpose of the study is to assess the foamability of PB-1 through extrusion foaming experiments.
A twin-screw extruder was used with varying concentrations of a chemical blowing agent. The obtained samples have been characterised for density, expansion ratio and microstructure. Foams with a volume expansion ratio of 1,8 were achieved. The results confirm the foamability of this polymer. The increase of the die pressure and its contribution to strain hardening were identified as key parameters for successful foaming. Further research will include improving the expansion ratio with a physical blowing agent and mechanical characterization of the foam.