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Fabricating Fireproof Fabrics

Zoom  Zoom Issue Date:2011-08-24   Source: makrials views   Browse:1007

Improving the fire-retardant properties of inherently flammable materials such as fabrics is a worthy goal. Fire has a huge capacity to damage and destroy, not just in terms of property, but also human life. Small wonder, then, that reducing the risk is a hot topic of research. Of course, fire-retardant materials are not a new concept, nor even fire-retardant fabrics, but many current methods of manufacturing such materials rely on chemical treatment of the fabrics to create barrier coatings. Two issues with such methods are that when the fabrics are washed, it causes leaching of (usually) hazardous chemicals into the water cycle and reduces the retardation effect, and that barrier coatings, while slowing the rate at which the fabric burns, will eventually give way and allow the fabric beneath to catch fire.

 

On the macroscale, intumescent coatings are among the most effective fire-retardant coatings. These coatings, which can take the form of paint or putty, swell and foam when exposed to heat, and char to non-flammable carbon forms (graphitic or glassy) rather than fuel. The physical distance, low density, and composition of the charred foam reduces heat and mass transfer, and prevents the material underneath from burning (you can see the effect here).

 

It’s this effect that a team of US scientists led by Jaime Grunlan - who you can see in the video belw talking more about this work -  at Texas A&M have managed to recreate using layer-by-layer deposition to coat fabrics with a nanoscale composite of poly(sodium phosphate) and poly(allylamine). When subjected to testing, coated fabrics showed greatly improved flame retardation properties, in one case even causing the fire to be extinguished. The technique is pretty simple, and the results pave the way for easy, fast, and above all effective production of fireproof materials for textiles, furnishings, and safety clothing.

 

 
 
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