Intumescent multilayer nanocoating, made with renewable polyelectrolytes, for flame retardant cotton

Thin films of fully renewable and environmentally benign electrolytes, cationic chitosan  (CH) and anionic phytic acid (PA), were deposited on cotton fabric via layer-by-layer (LbL) assembly in an effort to reduce flammability. Altering the pH of aqueous deposition solutions modifies the composition of the final nanocoating. CH-PA films created at pH 6 were thicker and had 48 wt % PA in the coating, while the thinnest films (with a PA content of 66 wt %) were created at pH 4. Each coating was evaluated at both 30 bilayers (BL) and at the same coating weight added to the fabric. In a vertical flame test, fabrics coated with high PA content multilayers completely extinguished the flame, while uncoated cotton was completely consumed. Microcombustion calorimetry confirmed that all coated fabric reduces peak heat release rate (pkHRR) by at least 50% relative to the uncoated control. Fabric coated with pH 4 solutions shows the greatest reduction in pkHRR and total heat release of 60% and 76%, respectively. This superior performance is believed to be due to high phosphorus content that enhances the intumescent behavior of these nanocoatings. These results demonstrate the first completely renewable intumescent LbL assembly, which conformally coats every fiber in cotton fabric and provides an effective alternative to current flame retardant treatments.

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Laufer, G; Kirkland, C; Morgan, A; Grunlan, JC;  Biomacromolecules201213, 2843-2848.

Published in Biomacromolecules 2012 / Thin Films