Pyrolysis experiments were conducted on medium density fibreboard (MDF) in inert atmosphere and different ambient pressures, to investigate the char shrinkage and cracking. It is found that the char cracking under uniform heat flux is a typical thermal shock process induced by unbalance shrinkage along the sample thickness during pyrolysis. To predict the number of char fissures, the critical stress criterion and energy conservation theory are used to develop mathematical models under plane constitutive stress state, which reveal that under the same surface degradation the number of char fissures (blisters) strongly relates to the pyrolysis depth at cracking time. Increasing external heat flux decreases the pyrolysis depth and increases the number of char fissures. Both experiments and numerical modelling are used to validate the models. The experimental results show that the horizontal shrinkage is 11% of original length and the micro-structure of char fissures of MDF is less uniform compared to the one of natural wood with a cellular pattern. The surface stresses after cracking are found similarly close to the tensile strength under different heat fluxes, while the surface stresses are very different assuming no crack, which indicates the cracking process reduces the surface stress to lower than the tensile strength. The modelled cracking times are different from the observed cracking time as the fissures are hard to identify at its initial stage and only when they have expanded to certain size the fissures are visually observed. Using the modelled cracking time, the number of char blisters can be well correlated with the pyrolysis depth.
- Thermal shock