Cellular polymers, which have been increasingly used for thermal insulation of external walls and roofs since the 1970s, degrade in some cases. The heat transmission of a cellular polymer insulator, the k value, is predominantly dependent on the heat conduction of the air or gas remaining in the cells. An insulator may be aged and start transmitting more energy due to replacement of cell content with different gases or moisture or both, changes in size, softening and creeping under pressure and heat, or penetration of water or mineral particles into cells, or a combination thereof. The solid face also degrades due to ultraviolet light, heat and atmospheric oxygen.
A research project was carried out from January 1988 to December 1991 to investigate the performance of flat roofs, waterproofing, and thermal insulation materials in the hot-dry climatic region of Saudi Arabia. In this context a field station was built and operated for weathering of roofing and insulation materials and for monitoring the surface and the inner temperatures of the applied roof systems.
Basically, two types of cellular polymers, expanded polystyrene and foamed polyurethane, were installed on the roof of the station for insulation. Specimens taken from the fresh, stored, and weathered polystyrene and polyurethane foams were tested to evaluate them according to the selected properties of thermal conductivity, compressive strength at relative deformation, and dimensional stability at elevated temperature. The test results were compared with the requirements presented in the literature and the standard specifications.
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