Weathering, aging, and cyclic application of stresses to acrylic plastic degrades its physical properties. The rate of degradation must be known if the useful life of load-carrying acrylic structures is to be predicted with accuracy. Physical and chemical tests conducted by the authors on thick spherical shells indicate that the weathering affects only a thin surface layer of material, which after 10 years is still less than 0.020 in. thick. Similarly, pollutants in the ambient atmosphere of the pressure chamber affect the surface layer of the spherical shell facing the interior of the chamber. The physical and chemical properties of the thin surface layer affected by weathering differed significantly from those in the middle of 2.5-in.-thick Plexiglas G plate; the decrease in properties was: 40 percent in tensile elongation, 34 percent in flexure strength, 21 percent in tensile strength, and 79 percent in molecular weight. Since the interior body of the thick plastic shell is not affected by weathering or chemical attack and the affected surface layers are very thin, the ability of the shell to carry compressive loads is not significantly diminished after 10 years of service. Only an 11 percent decrease of critical pressure was observed in spherical shells with thickness of 1 in. subjected to 10 years of weathering and 2000 pressure cycles of 8 hour duration each to 30 percent of its original critical pressure. Based on the preceding data it appears safe to extend the operational life from 10 to 20 years of all acrylic plastic spherical shells with bearing surfaces normal to spherical surface designed on the basis of ANSI/ASME PVHO-1 Safety Standard for external pressure service.

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