You might know it as the two tubes of stuff kept at the back of a garage shelf, that when combined create a really strong glue that can be used for all sorts of jobs.
In fact, epoxy resins are used extensively in electrical, construction and transportation industries and with a global market valued at USD 10.2 billion in 2021.
But despite its frequent use, epoxy resin come with downsides – it’s flammable and has a relatively short shelf life.
Addressing this issue is the focus of a University of Southern Queensland research project recently funded through the ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme.
More than $421,000 has been awarded for Dr Siqi Huo’s project to create a new class of phosphorus/imidazole oligomers for single-component epoxy resins with superior storage stability, fire retardancy and mechanical properties.
“As one of the most important polymers, epoxy resin features high mechanical strength, outstanding adhesion, chemical resistance, and good electrical insulation,” Dr Huo said.
“Due to these features, it is used extensively in construction, automotive, electronics and aerospace industries.
“Compared with two-component epoxy resins, one-component systems are a premix with a latent curing agent to reduce the problems of on-site weighing, mixing and defoaming, which makes it easier and more economical to use.
“This allows for lower pollution, reduced in-mold time and increased production efficiency, leading one-component epoxy resins being preferred in mass production and real-world applications in high-tech industries.
“Imidazoles are currently one of the most promising latent hardeners, but they can cure the epoxy resin at room temperature for a short time, leading to poor storage stability and short shelf life.
“Meanwhile, existing phosphorus-containing imidazole latent curing agents suffer from unsatisfactory fire retardancy.
“This project will overcome these weaknesses to develop environmentally benign, flame-retardant oligomers that will reduce fire hazards, protecting lives, property and the environment, by replacing current flammable epoxy resins commonly used.”
Dr Huo, a researcher focused on phosphorus-based flame retardants and fire-safe polymer composites, is currently employed as a full-time postdoctoral research fellow at Zhejiang University in China. He will join University of Southern Queensland from 2023.
Centre for Future Materials is part of the University’s Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences.