Cure Kinetics of Two Part Epoxy Resin and the Effect on Characterization of Thermal Barrier Coatings
The aerospace industry strives to develop new methods of refining gas turbine engines by increasing power and thermal efficiencies while simultaneously reducing cost. Turbine engines operate under high temperatures and therefore thermal barrier coatings (TBCs) composed of yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ) play an important role in improving the performance of the components that make up the engine. Failure of the TBC could lead to catastrophic events, thus requiring consistent and accurate characterization for supplier qualification and production quality assurance. However, due to porosity and the anisotropic behavior of the coating and variability in processing of TBCs, consistent characterization has proven to be extremely challenging. One of the reoccurring issues is the inconsistency in measuring percent porosity, which stems from the difficulty in distinguishing filled pores from damaged, unfilled voids.
Sample preparation of TBCs involves sectioning, mounting, grinding, polishing, and characterization. Eliminating variability in characterization begins with mounting which is a critical step to protect the surface integrity and edge retention of the coating during grinding and polishing. The curing kinetics of a slow cure two part epoxy was investigated and the TBC samples were mounted and cured at heating rates of 2, 5, and 10°C/min to 55°C and 70°C. Grinding and polishing procedures simulated industry practices followed by characterization with optical microscopy. Results showed that heating rates of 2°C/min to 55°C and 70°C have the best impregnation properties while uncontrolled or high heating rates of 10°C/min had an increase in the amount of pullouts and lack of infiltration from the epoxy. The curing kinetics of the epoxy needs to be controlled to eliminate the ambiguity of filled and unfilled pores.