Carbon nanotubes used to create flame-resistant coating

A carbon nanotube-based coating, said to greatly reduce the flammability of foam used in furniture, has been unveiled by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers.

Tests have shown that the coating reduces flammability by 35%. It also prevents melting and pooling, both of which cause fires to spread.

To create the coating, the NIST researchers placed nanotubes between two everyday polymers and stacked four of these tri-layers on top of each other.

This resulted in a plastic-like coating thinner than one-hundredth the diameter of human hair and with flame-inhibiting nanotubes distributed evenly throughout.

Gram for gram, the researchers claim the coating confers much greater resistance to ignition and burning than achieved with the brominated flame retardants commonly used to treat soft furnishings today.

As important, they say, a 'protective char layer' forms when the nanotube-coated foam is exposed to extreme heat, creating a barrier that prevents the formation of melt pools.

"This kind of technology has the potential to reduce the fire threat associated with burning soft furniture in homes by about a third," said materials scientist Rick Davis.

Laura Hopperton

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