Gaithersburg, Maryland --Researchers claim that coatings filled with carbon nanofibres outperform conventional flame retardants used in polyurethane foam for upholstered furniture and mattresses by at least 160 percent and perhaps by as much as 1130 percent.
This research, by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Texas A&M University, are reported in the journal Polymer, Vol. 52, Issue 13, June 8, 2011.
Significant fire-safety advantages can be gained by coating polyurethane foam with thin layers containing carbon nanofibres and polymers, creating what NIST researcher Rick Davis describes as a "fire-resistant armour" on the porous foam.
According to the researchers, Ignition of soft furnishings account for about 5 percent of residential fires, and such fires are responsible for a third of fire-caused deaths of civilians and 11 percent of property losses due to fires in homes.
In the US, mattress flammability of mattresses is regulated by federal law, with a complementary rule to regulate the flammability of upholstered furniture proposed recently.
Several groups have, however, challenged the health and safety of some flame retardants designed to protect against soft furnishing fires. And, a bill pending in California would ban the use of certain halogenated flame retardants in that state.
Conventionally fire retardants are embedded in the interior of flexible foams.
This experimental coating technology should, said Davis, be attractive to foamers because it has the potential to deliver a low flammability foam without major changes to the foam manufacturing process, thus saving time and money.