Researchers are close to producing a fire-retardant synthetic cloth using nano materials. So far a team of specialists in fire chemistry, polymers and textiles from three
If successful the project will create a new generation of textiles with applications from soft furnishings to soldiers’ uniforms and, according to the project leaders, ‘in so doing will breathe new life into the
Synthetic fibres have always been much more flammable than their natural counterparts and are difficult to make fire retardant. Natural fibres tend to form a crust of char which retards the burning process; they do not melt or drip like burning synthetic fibres.
In 2003 the MoD and the EPSRC each granted £150,000 to a team of specialists from the universities of
Since then the team has worked on existing and novel nano composites formed from polyamides, polyesters and polyacrylics; each has been assessed for flammability and its ability to be spun into fibres.
Researchers at the Centre for Materials Research and Innovation at
Kandola said that by including a certain amount of a silicate ‘nano glaze’, it was possible to reduce the level of conventional flame retardant to five per cent and still achieve the required protection. The nano particles made up two per cent of the material, from which Kandola’s team have produced 1kg batches of fibre, which is strong enough to be knitted.
Kandola said the objective is to produce a textile that will not ignite, but if it does catch fire can extinguish itself. ‘We have been successful in producing fibres but at the moment we are still experiencing problems with the dispersion of the nano glaze.’
The fibres are melt-extruded in a single continuous process and an even distribution of the nano glaze is necessary to achieve the required level of fire protection. The team hopes to get around the problem by experimenting with a new type of extruder in the near future.
Kandola said the new material, which would not melt or drip when subjected to flames or heat, would have uses in sectors including civil aerospace, domestic furnishings and the military.