Growth and fire resistance of colloidal silica-polyelectrolyte thin film assemblies

Thin films of colloidal silica were deposited on cotton fibers via layer-by-layer (LbL) assembly in an effort to reduce the flammability of cotton fabric. Negatively charged silica nanoparticles of two different sizes (8 and 27 nm) were paired with either positively charged silica (12 nm) or cationic polyethylenimine (PEI). PEI/silica films were thicker due to better (more uniform) deposition of silica particles that contributed to more than 90% of the film weight. Each coating was evaluated at 10 and 20 bilayers (BL). All coated fabrics retained their weave structure after being exposed to a vertical flame test, while uncoated cotton was completely destroyed. Micro combustion calorimetry confirmed that coated fabrics exhibited a reduced peak heat release rate, by as much as 20% relative to the uncoated control. The 10 BL PEI-8 nm silica recipe was the most effective because the coating is relatively thick and uniform relative to the other systems. Soaking cotton in basic water (pH 10) prior to deposition resulted in better assembly adhesion and flame-retardant behavior. These results demonstrate that LbL assembly is a useful technique for imparting flame retardant properties through conformal coating of complex substrates like cotton fabric.

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Laufer, G; Carosio, F; Martinez, R; Camino, G; Grunlan, JC; ‎J. Colloid Interface Sci, 2011, 356 (1), 69-77.
Published in Journal of Colloid and Interface Science 2011