Material resistance of flame retarded wood-plastic composites against fire and fungal decay
Flame retarded wood-plastic composites (WPCs) should allow safe application in areas of fire risk. Halogen-free flame retardants can contain high amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus or sulphur, which may serve as nutrition source for wood degrading fungi and accelerate wood decay. Therefore, the material resistance of WPCs with each of four flame retardants against both fire or fungal decay was examined in comparison to WPC without flame retardant. Expandable graphite showed the best performance against fire in cone calorimetry and radiant panel testing. Two ammonium polyphosphates and a third nitrogen-containing flame retardant were not as effective. Contrary to the possibility that flame retardants might enhance fungal decay of WPC, the opposite effect occurred in case of the wood-degrading fungi Trametes versicolor and Coniophora puteana according to determination of mass loss and decrease of bending modulus of elasticity. Only the surface mould Alternaria alternata slightly increased the degradation of WPCs with nitrogen-containing flame retardants compared to WPC without flame retardant according to mass loss data and FTIR-ATR analyses. Finally, WPC including expandable graphite as flame retardant was effective against both fire and fungal decay.