Friendly fire

Thousands of lives could be saved thanks to a new type of fire-retardant foam being developed by scientists at the University of Strathclyde.


Thousands of lives could be saved thanks to a new type of fire-retardant foam being developed by scientists at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland.


Scotland has one of the worst fire death records in the world, with around 110 people dying in house fires every year. Many of these fires are exacerbated by soft furnishings, including beds and sofas, which are made using flexible polyurethane foam that burns readily and allows the fire to spread.


Effective fire retardant foam formulations are available, but the current generation of foams contain additives which are of environmental concern or are potential health hazards.


But the Strathclyde group, headed by Dr. John Liggat and Professor Richard Pethrick of the Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, believes that clay particles can be used to prevent the foam from degrading when exposed to fire and stop the fire spreading.


“We will use relatively cheap nano-clay particles to create flexible, fire retardant polyurethane foam which is non-toxic and environmentally friendly, helping to prevent or lessen the spread of fire saving not only money and possessions, but also lives,” said Liggat.


The project has received £163,900 from the Scottish Executive’s Proof of Concept fund which will allow Dr. Liggat and his team to further investigate their initial findings.