Washington, December 14 (ANI): A new study suggests that the flammability of upholstered furniture can be dramatically reduced by adding a small amount of carbon nanofibres to the polyurethane foams that are used in them.
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have found that adding carbon nanofibres to the polyurethane foams can reduce flammability by about 35 percent when compared to foam infused with conventional fire retardants.
The finding is significant because treating mattresses and upholstered furniture used in public spaces with fire retardants can help reduce fire fatalities and injuries and, thereby. decrease damage costs.
The researchers said that they added carbon nanofibres to the foam because they knew that adding nanoparticles to a polymer normally increases the viscosity, and thus it does not flow as easily.
"The carbon nanofibers help prevent the foam from dripping in a pool under the furniture and increasing the fire intensity," said Jeff Gilman, leader of the Materials Flammability Group in the Building and Fire Research Laboratory.
The team said that experiments conducted by them had shown that carbon nanofibres seemed to create a thermally stable, entangled network that kept the foam from dripping.
They revealed that their study involved small-scale experiments.
"These small-scale experiments correlate well with the fire behavior of larger foam samples and are easier and less expensive to conduct. The small-scale tests will allow us to cost-effectively perform more experiments and help us find an optimal fire retardant faster," said Gilman.
"Carbon nanofibers are still more expensive than conventional flame retardant materials, but because the price is decreasing and so little needs to be used, they could soon be an affordable and effective option," Gilman added.
The scientists said that they would continue studying the mechanisms that reduce flammability and dripping.
They would also work with chemical companies, nano-additive suppliers, flame retardant suppliers and foam manufacturers to test new blends of foam and carbon nanofibres to improve flame retardant material. (ANI)