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Fire-Resistant Hydrogel-Fabric Laminates: A Simple Concept That May Save Lives

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journal contribution
posted on 10.02.2016, 21:14 by Widusha R. K. Illeperuma, Philipp Rothemund, Zhigang Suo, Joost J. Vlassak
There is a large demand for fabrics that can survive high-temperature fires for an extended period of time, and protect the skin from burn injuries. Even though fire-resistant polymer fabrics are commercially available, many of these fabrics are expensive, decompose rapidly, and/or become very hot when exposed to high temperatures. We have developed a new class of fire-retarding materials by laminating a hydrogel and a fabric. The hydrogel contains around 90% water, which has a large heat capacity and enthalpy of vaporization. When the laminate is exposed to fire, a large amount of energy is absorbed as water heats up and evaporates. The temperature of the hydrogel cannot exceed 100 °C until it is fully dehydrated. The fabric has a low thermal conductivity and maintains the temperature gradient between the hydrogel and the skin. The laminates are fabricated using a recently developed tough hydrogel to ensure integrity of the laminate during processing and use. A thermal model predicts the performance of the laminates and shows that they have excellent heat resistance in good agreement with experiments, making them viable candidates in life saving applications such as fire-resistant blankets or apparel.