The thermo-oxidative degradation of poly(4-methylstyrene) and its relationship to flammability

S. McCreath, J.P. Lewicki, J. J. Liggat, C. Lithgow, L. McCulloch, K. Miller, A. Witkowski

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Polystyrene and poly(4-methylstyrene) have very similar chemical structures with the only differences being the para methyl group of poly(4-methylstyrene). This methyl group is susceptible to oxidation at elevated temperatures. Here we demonstrate that it is possible to introduce oxidative cross-links to poly(4-methylstyrene), via the para methyl group, by thermal oxidative treatment at 230 °C, 250 °C and 270 °C in the absence of catalyst, leading to a material with markedly modified thermal degradation chemistry. Thermal gravimetric analysis and differential scanning calorimetry were used to characterise and compare untreated and post-oxidised materials and established that as the temperature of pre-treatment was increased, the subsequent thermal stability of the material increased. FTIR, NMR and microanalysis indicated that after the thermal oxidative pre-treatment ether cross-links are present alongside new oxygen containing functional groups such as aldehydes, carboxylic acids and hydroxyl groups. Finally, data obtained from pyrolysis combustion flow calorimetry confirmed that as the number of oxidative cross-links increase, a reduction in the polymer's flammability as assessed by heat release data is observed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-153
Number of pages10
JournalPolymer Degradation and Stability
Early online date28 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2015


  • thermo-oxidation
  • thermogravimetry
  • pyrolysis combustion flow calorimetry
  • cross linking
  • poly(4-methylstyrene)
  • methyl group
  • flammability


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