Failure Diagnosis of Foam Insulation Installed in Swimming Pool Hall

Lucideon was commissioned by the managers of a swimming pool, used as the diving venue for an international sports event, who were experiencing problems with deterioration of the polyurethane foam installed in the ceiling area for thermal insulation.  Both the supplier and manufacturer of the foam panels had been contacted but neither could give a clear answer about the cause of the failure.  The management team realized this was an issue that had to be solved, as it would have been extremely embarrassing if a diving competition was interrupted because of a shower of foam fragments falling onto the divers and into the pool.

The Challenge

The client was keen to understand whether the environment of the swimming pool, e.g. temperature, humidity or chemical contact etc., was causing the product failure and, if so, whether this was due to a defect in the material or whether the material was simply not suitable for this application.

What We Delivered

Two blocks of the foam were sent to Lucideon for testing - one was a failed foam sample and the other was an unused sample for reference.  The investigation was led by our polymer consultant, Dr Xi Peng, and a series of analytical techniques were used to examine both samples.  Serious degradation was detected by SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy) and TGA (Thermogravimetric Analysis) and a comparison of the FT-IR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) and EDX (Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy) results between the failed and reference samples indicated that chlorine-based species were involved in the degradation reaction of the polyurethane foam.

Value to the Client

Based on the analysis of the foam samples supplied, the failure was considered to be caused by attack of the chlorinated compounds originating from the pool underneath, leading to degradation and finally disintegration of the polyurethane substrate.  This work was well received by the client and the conclusion enabled them to take the appropriate action to resolve the issue.

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