A method to evaluate structural durability and performance of windows for use at the U.S. South Pole Station, Antarctica, is developed. Four commercial windows were mounted on a special test chamber simulating the antarctic conditions. The windows were instrumented with heat flux sensors, thermocouples, and strain gauges. The superiority of one product against the other was established on the basis of frost buildup, maintainability of thermal insulation, and structural integrity.


The objective of this study is to comparatively evaluate, at extremely low temperatures, the performance of three different prototype commercial windows containing polymeric composite components. The evaluation consists of exposing them to a severe thermal gradient, 24°C on one side and _70°C on the other; this closely resembles conditions prevalent at the U.S. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica. The scope of the work precluded critically analyzing any specific design features that would contribute to superior window performance at extreme temperatures. In general, window frames constructed with polymeric composite materials are an attractive alternative to metallic frames because of their low thermal conductivity, light weight, and lower susceptibility to corrosion. However, polymeric composites are a relatively new class of materials, and not much data about their durability and performance are available, especially under severe environmental conditions. The use of composites for window frames is a developing technology. Data obtained at low temperatures (Dutta 1996), however, show that they may degrade when cold cycled. In windows, several different materials, such as plate glass, metallic or fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) composite frames, and sealing materials are designed to fit closely together Their coefficients of thermal conductivity and thermal expansion are different. This may cause either the failure of the components, or degradation of performance over time. The current investigation is an effort to assess such degradation, if any.

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