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A polymer to burn.

A polymer to burn

Usually, polymers burn slowly, more like a candle than a rocket. Before combustion can occur, the polymer must break down, and this polymer degradation process generally requires a continuous supply of energy. Now, two Indian chemists have found a polymer that releases energy when it breaks down. Once a sample is ignited, the polymer degradation sustains itself, proceeding automatically. The polymer, poly(styrene peroxide), then burns at a rate comparable to that of solid rocket fuels.

The researchers found two major degradation products, benzaldehyde and formaldehyde, which are themselves combustible. They discovered that introducing additives to the polymer can either accelerate or decelerate degradation and burning. The addition of nitrobenzene, for instance, slows both stages but appears to have no effect on how the degradation occurs.

This rare example of an autocombustible polymer, say Kaushal Kishore and T. Mukundan of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, is "an ideal candidate' for development as a special fuel. Their report appears in the Nov. 13 NATURE.
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Title Annotation:autocombustible polymer
Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 13, 1986
Words:169
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