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09/Oct/2019
Foam Expo Europe and Composite Europe 2019 in Stuttgart
Last year, the two trade fairs COMPOSITES EUROPE a
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14/Aug/2019
Pinfa Workshop “Electromobility & Fire Safety Challenges” in Tokyo, Japan
On July 1, 2019, the hotel "The Westin"
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29/May/2019
Electrified future
Also in 2019, renowned companies such as Henkel, S
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23/May/2019
Design for Fire Safety in Greener Electronics
pinfa North America held its sixth industry da
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08/May/2019
Cultural heritage in flames
The pictures of the fire of the Parisian church No
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01/Apr/2019
The long and thorny way to greener electronics - chemicals management for the electronics industry remains a challenge
On 2019-03-28, ChemicalWatch organized a conferenc
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Fire initiation and combustion process

When does it burn?

The fire triangle demonstrates that three factors

  • fuel
  • heat
  • air (oxygen)

must coincide in order for anything to burn.


The combustion process

The three factors mentioned above are related to each other in the combustion process: the combustion of plastics will be taken as an example in the following.

The combustion of plastics is a process comprising many steps and basically initiated by a heat source initiating the decomposition of the polymer. These two steps, heating and decomposition of the polymer consume energy (endothermic process) for overcoming the high binding energies between individual atoms (200 to 400 kJ/mole).

Combustible gases are formed, which mix the oxygen of the air and ignite. This leads to the exothermic part of the process, i. e. flame propagation and heat release. Pyrolysis of the polymer is reinfoced by thermal feedback (heat release), which fuels the flame at an increasing level. The flame is supported by extremely high energy H· and OH· radicals, which confer a high velocity to the flame.


Flame retardants may inhibit the chemical reactions in the flame by removing the high energy radicals, or initiate the formation of a charred layer on the surface. Thus, the polymer is protected against the attack of heat and oxygen of the air and prevents the formation of flammable gas mixtures.