The flame retardancy of nylon 6/laponite and nylon 6/montmorillonite nanocomposites was investigated. The pronounced effect of layered silicates on heat release and mass loss rates of nylon 6 was examined. We found that nylon 6/laponite has 46 % and nylon 6/montmorillonite has 52.5 % lower peak heat release rates than that of neat nylon 6. The 6.5 % difference between the peak heat release rates of laponite- and montmorillonite-based nanocomposites was attributed to differences in aspect ratio and surface charge density of the nanoparticles.
The barrier properties of nanocomposite chars was evaluated by examining the peak heat release and mass loss rate reductions of stacks of layers, with the bottom layer being neat nylon 6 polymer and the top layers being nanocomposites that formed chars during the experiments. We observed that the peak heat release rate of a 10×10×0.3 cm neat nylon 6 slab was reduced by about 45 % when protected with a char-forming nylon 6/montmorillonite slab of same dimensions. The dramatic reduction of the peak heat release rate of neat nylon 6 when covered with a nanocomposite char was consistent with the notion that the flame retardancy of polymer/clay nanocomposites is affected by the (thermal and/or mass) barrier properties of the char. In order to test the thermal insulation of the char, temperature profiles of the layered samples were measured during cone calorimeter experiments. We observed that the nanocomposite char that brought about a 44.5 % reduction in peak heat release and mass loss rates reduced the heating rate of the same neat nylon 6 by about 31.2 %. The reduction in the heating rate increased with the amount of nanocomposite char formed.