Examining the early stages of thermal oxidative degradation in epoxy-amine resins
Epoxy-amine resins continue to find widespread use as the binders in protective and decorative organic coatings, as the matrix in composite materials, and as adhesives. In service, exposure to the environment ultimately results in oxidative deterioration of these materials, limiting the performance lifetime. Defining this auto-oxidation process is therefore a key challenge in developing more durable high-performance materials. In this study, we investigate oxidative degradation of a model resin based on diglycidyl ether of bisphenol-A (DGEBA) and an aliphatic amine hardener, triethylenetetraamine (TETA). Using infrared spectroscopy, we find that prior to the expected detection of formate groups (corresponding to the well-known radical oxidation mechanism of DGEBA), a band at 1658 cm−1 forms, associated with amine cross-linker oxidation. Infrared microspectroscopy, in-situ heated ATR-infrared, Raman spectroscopy and AFM-IR techniques are thus employed to investigate the early stages of resin oxidation and demonstrate strong parallels between the initial stages of cured resin degradation and the auto-oxidation of TETA cross-linker molecules.