Application of Genetic Algorithms and Thermogravimetry to Determine the Kinetics of Polyurethane Foam in Smoldering Combustion
Torero, Jose L
In this work, the kinetic parameters governing the thermal and oxidative degradation of flexible polyurethane foam are determined using thermogravimetric data and a genetic algorithm. These kinetic parameters are needed in the theoretical modeling of the foam’s smoldering behavior. Experimental thermogravimetric mass-loss data are used to explore the kinetics of polyurethane foam and to propose a mechanism consisting of five reactions. A lumped model of solid mass-loss based on Arrhenius-type reaction rates and the five-step mechanism is developed to predict the polyurethane thermal degradation. The predictions are compared to the thermogravimetric measurements, and using a genetic algorithm, the method finds the kinetic and stoichiometric parameters that provide the best agreement between the lumped model and the experiments. To date, no study has attempted to describe both forward and opposed smolder-propagation with the same kinetic mechanism. Thus, in order to verify that the polyurethane kinetics determined from thermogravimetric experiments can be used to describe the reactions involved in polyurethane smoldering combustion, the five-step mechanism and its kinetic parameters are incorporated into a simple species model of smoldering combustion. It is shown that the species model agrees with experimental observations and that it captures phenomenologically the spatial distribution of the different species and the reactions in the vicinity of the front, for both forward and opposed propagation. The results indicate that the kinetic scheme proposed here is the first one to describe smoldering combustion of polyurethane in both propagation modes.