Promising fire retardant results when clay nanofiller has space

Promising fire retardant results when clay nanofiller has space

1:41 PM, 8th July 2011
Promising fire retardant results when clay nanofiller has space

 

GAITHERSBURG, US: The materials scientists, a team from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and University of Maryland (UMD) have collaboratively demonstrated, the more widely and uniformly dispersed nanoscale plates of clay are in a polymer, the more fire protection the nanocomposite material provides.

Writing in the journal Polymer, the team reports that in tests of five specimens - each with the same amount of the nanoscale filler (5 per cent by weight) - the sample with the most widely dispersed clay plates was far more resistant to igniting and burning than the specimen in which the plates mostly clustered in crowds. In fact, when the two were exposed to the same amount of heat for the same length of time, the sample with the best clay dispersion degraded far more slowly. Additionally, its reduction in mass was about a third less.

In the NIST/UMD experiments, the material of interest was a polymer - a type of polystyrene, used in packaging, insulation, plastic cutlery and many other products - imbued with nanometer scale plates of montmorillonite, a type of clay with a sandwich-like molecular structure. The combination can create a material with unique properties or properties superior to those achievable by each component -clay or polymer - on its own.

Polymer-montmorillonite nanocomposites have attracted much research and commercial interest over the last decade or so. Led by NIST Guest Researcher Takashi Kashiwagi, the NIST-UMD team subjected their clay-dispersion-varying samples to an exhaustive battery of characterization methods and flammability tests. Affording views from the nanoscopic to the microscopic, the array of measurements and flammability tests yielded a complete picture of how the nanoscale clay plates dispersed in the polymer and how the resultant material responded when exposed to an influx of heat.

The researchers found that with better dispersion, clay plates entangle more easily when exposed to heat, thereby forming a network structure that is less likely to crack and leading to fewer gaps in the material. The result, they say, is a heat shield that slows the rate of degradation and reduces flammability. The NIST team, led by Rick Davis, is now exploring other approaches to reduce flammability, including the use of advanced materials and novel coating techniques.

(C) The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) News 

 

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