Explore our research

  • Fire Behaviour of Polymer Nanocomposites


Amongst the many and varied applications of nanotechnology, the dispersion of nanoscopic fillers to form polymer nano-composites with improved mechanical properties and fire behaviour illustrates the potential and diversity of nanoscience. Polymers decompose in different ways and fire retardants act to inhibit the decomposition or flaming combustion processes. Polymer nanocomposites form barriers between the fuel and air, reducing the rate of burning, but beyond that there is little consistency in their effects. The rheological properties of molten polymer nanocomposites are radically different from those of virgin polymers, and these profoundly affect the heat and fuel transfer through the material, often resulting in shorter times to ignition but lower peaks in the heat release rate. Most fire deaths result from inhalation of toxic gases; many who escape from fire die soon afterwards because of damage to their lungs; fire survivors often suffer injury from toxic smoke inhalation. While the majority of deaths in fires are caused by inhalation of CO and HCN, the incapacitating effects of particulates and other irritants may prevent escape and thus be the reason for the deaths.

Expertise and Subject Areas


  • The Effect of Nanodispersion of Flammability – although the effect of polymer clay nanocomposites on fire was first investigated over 2 decades ago, wider study of the full range of sizes, morphologies, chemistries and surface treatments of polymer nanocomposites has only just began.
  • Fire Retardancy – Flammability reduced materials, containing fire retardants, by blending with a plastic during manufacture, are required in many applications such as electrical goods, public transport, and foam furniture. The different ways they work is a testament to the ingenuity of chemists and technologists who have developed them. They can be broadly separated into those blocking the fire physically and those using alternative chemical reactions to stop the material from burning.


Recent Conference presentations:

  • Professor Richard Hull:  Plenary lecture on Gas Phase flame retardants, 2nd International symposium on Flame-Retardant Materials and Technologies, Sichuan University, China Sept 2012
  • Professor Richard Hull: Lecture on Fire Toxicity of Commercial Products, 2nd International Symposium on Flame-Retardant Materials and Technologies, Sichuan university, China Sept 2012
  • Professor Richard Hull: Lecture to International Forum on Fire Safe Materials in Hefei, China Sept 2012
  • Professor Richard Hull: Lecture on Fire retardancy of mineral fillers in EVA copolymers, 243rd ACS Symposium, Fire and Polymers, California USA

Professor Hull is a UK Management Committee member and UK representative to COST Action Flaretex.

Professor Hull has been invited to join the advisory committee in support of the USEPA funded “Great Lakes PBDE Institutional Reduction Project".

Publications and Outputs


  • JA Purser, DA Purser, A Stec, C Moffat, TR Hull, JZ Su, M Byloos, P Blomqvist “ Repeatability and Reproducibility Round Robin for the ISO TS19700 steady state tube furnace” Fire Safety Journal 2013.





  • A Witkowski, A Stec, TR Hull “The influence of metal hydroxide fire retardants and nanoclay on the thermal decomposition of EVA.” Polymer Degradation and Stability vol 97 November 2012.
  • P Patel, A Stec, TR Hull, M Naffakh, AM Diez-Pascual, G Ellis, N Safronava, RE Lyon “Flammability Properties of PEEK an Carbon Nanotube Composites” Polymer Degradation and Stability, 2012.
  • LA Hollingberry, TR Hull “The Fire Retardant Effects of Huntite in Natural Mixtures with Hydromagnesite” Polymer Degradation and Stability 2012.
  • DJ Kind, TR Hull “ A Review of candidate fire retardants for polyisoprene” Polymer Degradation and Stability 2012.


  • Hollingbery L. and Hull T. R., “A Review of The Structure and Thermal Decomposition of Hydromagnesite and Huntite”, Thermochimica Acta (2010), doi:10.1016/j.tca.2010.06.012.
  • Sacristán M., Hull T. R., Stec A. A., Ronda J. C., , Galià M, Cádiz M. V., “Cone Calorimetry Studies of Fire Retardant Soybean-Oil-Based Copolymers Containing Silicon or Boron: comparison of additive and reactive approaches”, Polymer Degradation and Stability. 95 (2010) 1269.
  • Patel P, Hull TR, McCabe RW, Flath D, Grasmeder J, Percy M, “Mechanism of thermal decomposition of poly(etheretherketone) (PEEK) from a review of decomposition studies”, Polymer Degradation and Stability 95 (2010) 709.
  • Stec A. A. and Jennifer Rhodes J., “Smoke and Hydrocarbon Yields from Fire Retarded Polymer Nanocomposites”, Polymer Degradation and Stability, (in press) March (2010) doi:10.1016/j.polymdegradstab.2010.03.032.
  • Rhodes J, Smith C. and Stec A. A., Characterisation of soot particulates from fire retarded and nanocomposite materials, and their toxicological impact. Polymer Degradation and Stability, (in press) March (2010) doi:10.1016/j. polymdegradstab.2010.07.002.


  • Wang D. Y., Wang J. S., Ge X. G., Wang Y. Z., Stec A. A. and Hull T. R., “Preparation and characterisation of a novel flame retarded PET/? zirconium phosphate nanocomposite (?-ZrP)”, Polymer Degradation and Stability 94 (2009) 544.


Staff from across the University form the Institute, bringing together a wealth of experience. Staff with a particular interest in fire behaviour of polymer nanocomposites are:

  • Dr Jenny Redman

  • Professor Waqar Ahmed

Related Projects

Characterisation of Dispersions

Fire Retardancy

Fire Toxicity