What is nanotechnology?
Since the occurrence of fires has not yet decreased significantly in many countries of the world, there is an increasing need for researchers to research and develop improved methods to deal with this global issue. Nanotechnology, while posing minimal health risks, could point to a future with less lethal fires and minimal damage. In this article, we refer to fire and nanotechnology in today’s technology world.
The United States Fire Administration reported that more than 1.3 million fires in 2017 caused 3,400 deaths, 14,670 injuries and $23 billion in damages. The high cost and irreparable damages caused by fire today in life and property have prompted some researchers to look for innovative fire prevention solutions.
Nano technology is used to strengthen, make lighter and at the same time fire resistant building materials and products.
Now let’s check what is nano technology?
Nanotechnology refers to the science, engineering, and technology performed at the nanoscale (which is about 1 to 100 nanometers) that enables the manipulation of materials to suit existing needs.
How is nanotechnology used?
Nanotechnology is used in the following cases:
1. Coatings used to increase fire resistance in fabrics and furniture.
2. Bricks, mortar and other clay products to reduce thermal resistance.
3. Nano fiber mats, these mats, which are used instead of building insulation and some floors, absorb thermal energy from the flames and while extinguishing the fire, they absorb it, and this reduces the spread of fire and It will be damaged. Fire compartmentalization is an important benefit of nanotechnology, allowing residents more time to escape.
4. Using hydrogel for blankets and clothes, in order to resist fire to absorb heat and prevent thermal burns.
5. Polyetherimide nanocomposite foams to increase thermal protection for home appliances. These foams can be combined with nanoparticles so that they do not release toxic gases when exposed to flame.
While the exact number of wildfires and related civilian casualties and injuries in the United States appears to have decreased slightly over the past few years, the numbers are still unacceptably high. To address these concerns, several researchers have used nanotechnology to create innovative firefighting solutions.
Nanotextiles as flame retardant materials
Because textiles are one of the most common sources of ignition in fire incidents, many flame-resistant textiles are included in protective clothing, carpets, furniture, curtains, floors, sleepwear, mattresses, and other industrial textile materials.
As the most widely used polymer nanocomposite, montmorillonite nanoparticles (MMT) have unique mechanical, thermal, and flammable properties that have led to their incorporation into flame-resistant textiles.
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs), which consist of a hexagonal lattice of bonded carbon atoms, have also shown flame retardant capabilities. In particular, the carbon layers inside polymer/CNT systems act as a thermal barrier and thermal insulation, reducing their flammability.
Nanosil, a Belgium-based company focused on the production of industrial multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs), was one of the first commercial manufacturers of MWCNT flame retardant textile coatings. The company’s product, called THERMOCYLTM, provides exceptional flame retardant properties for a wide variety of materials beyond textiles, some of which include glass, metals, thermoplastics and wood.
Fire suppression systems
By incorporating nanotechnology into fire suppression systems such as fire extinguishers, fires can be extinguished much more effectively.
One of the methods of investigating this type of system is to create different chemical compounds that can cause the combustible materials to break down into nano-sized particles. Then the quality of the fire retardant material increases and increases their effectiveness and strength in fighting fire.
Xi’an WestPeace Fire Technology Co., Ltd is a China-based company that has produced several nano-technology portable fire extinguishers. The basis of this model of nano fire extinguishing technology is to reduce the size of dry chemical extinguishing particles to approximately 0.1 micrometers (μm). This helps create a dramatic movement that propels particles directly into the fire, reducing the amount of residue left after the fire is extinguished.
In addition to being the smallest portable fire extinguisher on the market, Westpeace claims its line of nanoparticle fire extinguishing products is environmentally friendly and non-toxic.
As the world’s population increases, manufacturers have met the ever-increasing demand for building materials by producing lighter, stronger, and more durable materials that can be produced more quickly. Unfortunately, in the meantime, manufacturers did not consider the flammability of their materials. In an effort to address these fire safety concerns without compromising the ability to meet production demands, several different nanotechnologies have been integrated into new building materials.
While traditional coatings on wooden structures include ammonium phosphate or sulfates, chlorides, oxides, or other metal salts, many of these chemicals and their combustion products are highly toxic. Many efforts have been made to investigate how to replace these harsh chemicals with nano-coatings that can increase fire protection, reduce toxicity for construction workers, and improve resistance.
Some nano-coatings that have shown promising results for fire protection against wood include layered silicate nanoparticles such as MMT, inorganic flame retardant nanoparticles, silica nanoparticles, and MWCNTs.
How can nanotechnology be used for fire safety in the future?
There are many potential benefits that can be gained by using nanotechnology for fire safety. They are:
How much future research is needed?
There are three areas that are delaying the widespread use of nanotechnology.
1. Health concerns
It has been investigated that cancer and silicosis are among the worrisome cases of nano technologies. We know that exposure to fire and inhalation, skin contact or ingestion are harmful. But there are still many things we don’t know about and are investigating.
2. Reliability of nano coatings
When the nanoparticles start to melt, they form bubbles. By bursting these bubbles, the nanoparticles are pushed out and their protection is reduced. Finding a cost-effective way to mitigate this problem should be found.
Large-scale production is expensive, so most companies decide to invest in the cheaper option, detectors.
In fact, apart from nanotextiles and new fire suppression systems, the use of nanotechnology in fire safety systems can also be found in polymer coatings used in the automotive industry, nano fiber mats and hydrogels.
Despite the features mentioned above, research indicates that the increased use of nanoparticles has shown their ability to alter the normal immune function and lead to inflammation in various organs such as the liver, kidney, and lungs.
Fortunately, many studies have allowed researchers to determine safer concentrations, sizes, and surface patterns to reduce risks and their specific uses.