Developing a new kind of flame-retardant coating

A unique, renewable, cellulose‐based nanocoating that could be used in a variety of packaging and protection applications.

Dr. Jaime C. Grunlan. Credit: Texas A&M University College of Engineering
Dr. Jaime C. Grunlan. Credit: Texas A&M University College of Engineering

Scientists at Texas A&M University are developing a fire-retardant coating using renewable, nontoxic materials readily found in nature. It could potentially reduce the flammability of the polyurethane foam used in a variety of furniture throughout most people’s homes.

The coating was developed in collaboration with Grunlan and a group of researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, led by Lars Wagberg.

Dr. Jaime Grunlan said, “In nature, both the cellulose—a component of wood and various sea creatures—and clay—a component in soil and rock formations—act as mechanical reinforcements for the structures in which they are found. The uniqueness in this current study lies in the use of two naturally occurring nanomaterials, clay nanoplatelets, and cellulose nanofibrils. To the best of our knowledge, these ingredients have never been used to make a heat shielding or flame-retardant coating as a multilayer thin film deposited from water.”

Among the advantages picked up from utilizing this technique incorporate the coating’s capacity to make an excellent oxygen barrier to plastic movies—generally utilized for nourishment bundling—and better fire insurance at a lower cost than other, progressively harmful fixings customarily utilized fire-resistant treatments.

To test the coatings, Grunlan and his associates applied the adaptable polyurethane foam —often utilized in furniture cushions—and presented it to flame utilizing a butane light to decide the dimension of security the compounds provided.

While uncoated polyurethane foam immediately liquefies when presented to fire, the foam treated with the specialists’ coating prevented the flame from harming any more remote than surface level, leaving the foam underneath intact.

Grunlan said, “The nanobrick wall structure of the coating reduces the temperature experienced by the underlying foam, which delays combustion. This coating also serves to promote insulating char formation and reduces the release of fumes that feed a fire.”

“The next step for the overall flame-retardant project is to transition the methods into an industry for implementation and further development.”

Scientists have published research that is featured on the cover of a recent issue of the journal Advanced Materials Interfaces.