The behaviour of polymer quenchants

  • Nicholas A. Hilder

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The internationally accepted Wolfson Heat Treatment Centre Engineering Group test was used to evaluate the cooling characteristics of the most popular commercial polymer quenchants: polyalkylene glycols, polyvinylpyrrolidones and polyacrylates. Prototype solutions containing poly(ethyloxazoline) were also examined. Each class of polymer was capable of providing a wide range of cooling rates depending on the product formulation, concentration, temperature, agitation, ageing and contamination. Cooling rates for synthetic quenchants were generally intermediate between those of water and oil. Control techniques, drag-out losses and response to quenching in terms of hardness and residual stress for a plain carbon steel, were also considered. A laboratory scale method for providing a controllable level of forced convection was developed. Test reproducibility was improved by positioning the preheated Wolfson probe 25mm above the geometric centre of a 25mm diameter orifice through which the quenchant was pumped at a velocity of 0.5m/s. On examination, all polymer quenchants were found to operate by the same fundamental mechanism associated with their viscosity and ability to form an insulating polymer-rich-film. The nature of this film, which formed at the vapour/liquid interface during boiling, was dependent on the polymer's solubility characteristics. High molecular weight polymers and high concentration solutions produced thicker, more stable insulating films. Agitation produced thinner more uniform films. Higher molecular weight polymers were more susceptible to degradation, and increased cooling rates, with usage. Polyvinylpyrrolidones can be cross-linked resulting in erratic performance, whilst the anionic character of polyacrylates can lead to control problems. Volatile contaminants tend to decrease the rate of cooling and salts to increase it. Drag-out increases upon raising the molecular weight of the polymer and its solution viscosity. Kinematic viscosity measurements are more effective than refractometer readings for concentration control, although a quench test is the most satisfactory process control method.
Date of Award1988
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorH.C. Child (Supervisor)


  • behaviour
  • polymer quenchants

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