Weathering of plastics glazing materials
Plastics glazing materials have properties which allow their widespread use in construction, for example as rootlights. However, they are more susceptible than is glass to degradation by weathering, notably the combined effects of ultraviolet light, heat and moisture. Examples of unacceptable durability have been seen in practice, particularly when high operating temperatures occur in sunlight. Artificial weathering tests are used to assess plastics glazing materials in a reasonably short time, two main types being utilised in this study. The applicability of ultra-fast methods of accelerated degradation has been shown to depend on the extent to which the mechanisms of degradation simulate practical weathering, since different procedures were found to promote different mechanisms in the materials tested. Misleading information was obtained when the full spectrum of solar UV and much of the visible was not adequately reproduced in the accelerated tests. In particular an established grade of PVC-U performed unexpectedly poorly under fluorescent lamps. Procedures based on xenon arc sources were found to be the most generally applicable because they better reproduce the full solar spectrum range and, hence, the typical effects observed in plastics materials in practice. Several analytical techniques were used to characterise the virgin polymers and to assess the weathered materials. Two commercial grades of each polymer type (poly[vinylchloride], polycarbonate and poly[methylmethacrylate]) were studied, and measured changes explained in terms of initial polymer properties. Profiling of chemical (e.g. carbonyl index measured by photo-acoustic fourier transform infrared), physical (e.g. molecular weight, surface gloss/roughness), optical (e.g. colour, light transmission) and mechanical properties (e.g. impact resistance) as a function of exposure period and environmental conditions enabled degradation rates and mechanisms to be established for each material. In conducting these tests particular attention was given to the control and effects of sample temperature during weathering, and to the wavelength range of the light source used. Poly(vinylchloride) was affected much more by weathering at higher temperatures, and by exposure to short wavelength radiation, than was polycarbonate, with acrylic being the most durable overall. Practical applications of this work are through Standards committees primarily. in particular with plastics rootlights (B/542/8 and CEN/TCI28/SC9).