Chemical and structural degradation of room temperature vulcanizing (RTV) silicone at high temperatures

Luis A. Chacon, Ben Deaton, Brody K. Bessire, Savio J. Poovathingal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Room temperature vulcanizing (RTV) silicone is an insulating adhesive used on thermal protection systems of space capsules. RTV materials experience significant heating during entry into an atmosphere. To understand the response of RTV materials in entry environments, RTV 511 and RTV 560 are heated in a mass spectrometer, a thermogravimetric analyzer, and a high-temperature flow tube furnace to understand the underlying chemical and structural degradation processes occurring during the decomposition of the two RTV materials. In addition, infrared spectroscopy is used to identify the functional groups and the polymer backbone configuration. X-ray computed tomography is used to create three-dimensional volumes of the decomposed samples to examine the structure of the degraded RTV materials. The three-dimensional volumes are also used to evaluate the permeability of degraded RTV materials. It is observed that both RTV materials decompose in three stages. Analysis of the three-dimensional volumes generated through X-ray computed tomography indicates that the decomposition begins with the formation of small cavities in both RTV variants. However, as the materials are subjected to higher temperatures, RTV 511 evolves into an outer solid layer with cavities inside, while the solid material in RTV 560 is distributed more homogeneously throughout the material, resulting in a structure with better mechanical integrity. Although most regions of both RTV variants are impermeable, certain regions of RTV 511 have a permeability that is two orders of magnitude higher than the permeability of the base heat shield material. The overall analysis indicates that the response of RTV materials to heat must be considered in the design and analysis of thermal protection systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110661
JournalPolymer Degradation and Stability
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Ltd


  • High-temperature decomposition
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Permeability of RTV materials
  • Pyrolysis
  • Thermal protection system
  • Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA)
  • X-ray computed tomography (XRCT)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Chemistry


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