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Identifying Cladding Materials using FTIR and Other Analytical Techniques

Questions regarding the compliance and flammability of external cladding materials are being raised more than ever before, especially since the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 and the more recent Bolton Cube student accommodation fires. Cladding materials, particularly the core, have been implicated as a contributing factor in fires, both the UK and all over the world.

Since 1969, aluminium composite panels (ACP), made of aluminium composite material (ACM), have been used in cladding systems in UK buildings, whereas buildings of late incorporate high-pressure laminate (HPL) and mineral boards.

Recent figures suggest that in the UK alone, almost 500 residential buildings that stand above 18 meters use ACM cladding; 316 of which do not comply with UK building regulations. Social housing accounts for 50% of the residential buildings using ACM cladding, with student accommodation, public and private buildings accounting for the other half.1

Understanding the composition and behaviour of cores and interfaces is therefore crucial for preventing failures in case of fire outbreaks, and ultimately for ensuring the safety of the occupants.

We offer a range of analytical techniques to assist building owners, facilities managers, insurers and fire consultants to better understand the composition, flammability potential and toxicity of cladding systems:

  • Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) identifies polymers and many inorganic compounds
  • Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) and differential scanning calorimeters (DSC) determine the fraction of polymer and non-volatile portion of inorganic fillers in ACP core materials
  • Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and X-ray fluorescence (XRF) to perform elemental analysis on outer-screen products, filling and insulation boards
  • X-ray diffraction (XRD) identifies crystalline materials such as mineral fillers, present in ACP core materials.

At Lucideon, we have an onsite team of experts that can carry out in-situ sampling or sampling from off-cut panels. Our onsite sampling and laboratory services are available throughout the UK and internationally.

To find out more, please contact Andrea Sansone, Product Manager - Construction: +44 (0)1782 764288 or andrea.sansone@lucideon.com.


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1 Sean T. McKenna, Fire behavior of modern façade materials – Understanding the Grenfell Tower fire, Journal of Hazardous Materials 368 (2019) 115-123.

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