How Overheating and Extreme Temperatures Affect Gasket Performance

13 December 2016

Let’s hone in on a specific case study, a threat profile that shows how overheating and extreme temperatures can affect gasket performance. Yes, in the long run, different mechanical sealing families are fabricated from advanced materials, and they’re designed to handle compressive forces while faithfully confining corrosive fluids, but what happens when that fluid is imbued with energy? What happens when there’s a powerful thermal component flowing inside the pipework?

The Effects of Heat

High temperatures are just part of the daily grind here. Hot water and hotter spouts of steam course down restricted channels. Like a near sentient elemental force, the heated fluid seemingly looks for an exit. The generated energy, locked inside the coursing medium, attacks the interspersed seals within the hot pipeline. The effects of the thermal discharge are catastrophic. They include swelling and hardening, material changes that corrupt structural integrity. Unless, the gaskets are built to tolerate such temperature extremes, failure is likely.

When Adverse Temperatures Prevail

A gasket that’s equipped with an elastomeric function will seal readily and fill fine surface deformities when two flanges come together, but this mechanical asset degrades dramatically when the ring of sealing material is exposed to more thermal energy than it is rated to tolerate. The material begins to bake. It hardens and loses elasticity. The temperature seesaws, which then causes the hardening gasket to crack. Leaks are quick to take advantage of this new escape route. We’re looking at a brittleness transition that’s destined to cause leaks and subsequent performance plunges, for the closed system is suffering from a hemorrhaging event, a leak that will compromise the formerly pressure-secured pipework.

Assessing Material Deformations

Much of what’s been covered could be considered a generalization. Make no mistake, thermal energy is destructive when not contained properly, but the effects differ according to the materials used in each system. Certain gaskets use thermoset materials but others opt instead for a thermoplastic core. Setting materials tend to shrink and harden, so they crack. Plastic-like variants, on the other hand, melt and deform. Creep and relaxed fits generally prosper when the material deforms, so the tight flange seal loosens. Again, a nasty leak is likely and system performance losses are an unavoidable result of this material slimming effect.

Select strong engineering plastics and metal-reinforced products to avoid performance-debilitating events. Thermally capable plastics and deformation-resistant alloys don’t contract or expand, don’t harden or become brittle, and they will always stay the course, no matter how hot the situation becomes.

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