Boedeker Plastics, Inc. Logo -- boedeker plastics supply shiner
     texas tx usa boedeker plastics material supply shiner texas usa plastics
     distributor plastics sales plastics supply plastics machine shop
How to Identify Plastic Materials
Using The Burn Test

904 West 6th Street, Shiner, Texas 77984 USA
Phone: 1-361-594-2941     Fax: 1-361-594-2349     E-Mail: info@boedeker.com

1-800-444-3485

BPI Home Page | Applications Guide | Materials Guide | Contact Us!

blue line

Using The Burn Test to Identify Plastic Materials

Here is a simplified guide that will help you to identify many common types of plastic materials using a flame source such as a cigarette lighter, torch, or bottled gas burner. Naturally, the burn test should be used only for tentative identification. Many complex plastic compounds require a rigorous spectral or destructive chemical analysis for a positive identification.

To initially determine whether a material is thermoplastic (meltable) or thermoset (non-meltable) type, heat a metal or glass stirring rod until it glows red or orange (to about 500°F / 260°C) and press it against the sample. If the sample softens, the material is a thermoplastic; if it does not, it's probably a thermoset.

Next, hold the sample to the edge of a flame until it ignites. If no flame is produced quickly, hold the sample in the flame for about 10 seconds. If the material burns, note the color of the flame, the nature of the smoke, the presence of soot in the air and whether, while burning, the sample drips.

Next, extinguish the flame and cautiously smell the fumes. To identify the odor, samples of known plastic samples for comparison can be most helpful. Finally, check your observations against the known characteristics of each plastic as shown in the table below. Once you have made a tentative identification, it is usually desirable to repeat the flame test once or twice to confirm the results of the original identification. Remember that additives may affect results. For example: flame retardants can mask the polymer material's normal flame & smoke burning characteristics.

NOTE: The Burn Test Characteristics Table below is also available for download in easy-to-print one-page Download/Open PDF Version Now.PDF format here.


PLASTIC MATERIAL BURN TEST CHARACTERISTICS

Materials No Flame Burns, but Extinguishes
on Removal of Flame Source
Continues to Burn after
removal of Flame Source
Remarks
Odor Odor Color of Flame Drips Odor Color of Flame Drips Speed of Burning

THERMOPLASTICS

ABS   Acrid Yellow,
blue edges
No Acrid Yellow,
blue edges
Yes Slow Black smoke
with soot in air
Acetals - - - - Formaldehyde Blue,
no smoke
Yes Slow  
Acrylics - - - - Fruity Blue,
yellow tip
No (cast)
Yes (molded)
Slow Flame may spurt
if rubber modified
Cellulosics                   
  Acetate - Vinegar Yellow
with sparks
No Vinegar Yellow Yes Slow Flame may spark
  Acetate Butyrate - - - - Rancid butter Blue,
yellow tip
Yes Slow Flame may spark
Ethyl Cellulose - - - - Burnt sugar Yellow,
blue edges
Yes Rapid -
  Nitrate - - - - camphor White No Rapid -
  Propionate - - - - Burnt sugar Blue,
yellow tip
Yes Rapid -
Chlorinated Polyether -   Green,
yellow tip
No - - - - Black smoke
with soot in air
Fluorocarbons                  
  FEP Faint odor of
burnt hair
- - - - - - - Deforms;
no combustion,
but drips
  PTFE Faint odor of
burnt hair
- - - - - - - Deforms;
does not drip
  CTFE faint odor of
acetic acid
- - - - - - - Deforms;
no combustion,
but drips
  PVDF acidic - - - - - - - Deforms
Nylons                  
  Type 6 - - - - Burnt wool Blue,
yellow tip
Yes Slow -
  Type 6/6 - Burnt wool
or hair
Blue,
yellow tip
Yes - - - Slow More rigid than
Type 6 nylon
Phenoxies - Acridd Yellowc Noc Acridd Yellowd Yesd Slowd Black smoke
with soot in air
Polycarbonates - Faint, sweet
aromatic ester
Orange Yes - - - - Black smoke
with soot in air
Polyethylenes - - - - Paraffin Blue,
yellow tip
Yes Slow Floats in water
Polyphenylene                       
  Oxides (PPO) - Phenol Yellow-orange No - - - - Flame spurts;
very difficult to ignite
  Modified Grade - Phenol Yellow-orange No - - - - flame spurts;
difficult to ignite,
soot in air
Polyimides b - - - - - - - Chars; material
very rigid
Polypropylenes - Acrida Yellowa Yellowa Sweet Blue,
yellow tip
Yes Slow Floats in water;
more difficult to scratch
than polyethylene
Polystyrenes - - - - Illuminating Gas Yellow Yes Rapid Dense black smoke
with soot in air
Polysulfones - b Orange Orange - - - - Black smoke
Polyurethanes - - - - b Yellow No Slow Black smoke
Vinyls
  Flexible
- Hydrochloric acid Yellow with
green spurts
No - - - - Chars, melts
  Rigid - Hydrochloric acid Yellow with
green spurts
No - - - - Chars, melts
Polyblends                    
  ABS/Polycarbonate - - - - b Yellow,
blue edges
No - Black smoke
with soot in air
  ABS/PVC - Acrid Yellow, blue edges No - - - - Black smoke
with soot in air
  PVC/Acrylic - Fruity Blue, yellow tip No - - - -  

THERMOSETS

Alkyds - - - - - - - - -
Diallyl Phthalates - - - - Phenolic Yellow No Slow Black smoke, cracks
Diglycol Carbonate - - - - Acrid Yellow No Slow Black smoke
with soot
Epoxies - - - - Phenol Black smoke No Slow Black smoke
with soot in air
Melamines Formaldehyde
and fish
  - - - - - - -
Phenolics Formaldehyde
and phenolc
Phenol and wood or paperd Yellowd No - - - - May crack
Polyesters - Hydrochloric acida Yellowa Noa b Yellow,
blue edges
No Slow Cracks and breaks
Silicones b - - - - - - - Deforms
Ureas Formaldehyde - - - - - - - -
a Flame retardant   b Nondescript   c Inorganic filler   d Organic filler Ref: Materials Engineering, Penton/IPC, Cleveland, Ohio

blue line

http://www.boedeker.com/burntest.htm

Boedeker Plastics, Inc.
904 West 6th Street, Shiner, Texas 77984 USA
USA TOLLFREE : 1-800-444-3485
Phone: 1-361-594-2941     Fax: 1-361-594-2349     E-Mail: info@boedeker.com

©     Copyright Boedeker Plastics, Inc.