NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) seeks to license its Advanced Fire Retardant Materials to industry. KSC’s scientists have developed processes and know-how to impart fire retardancy to common polymers such as nylons, polyesters, and acrylics. NASA developed this technology for use in personnel protective systems for launch pad personnel engaged in hazardous materials (HAZMAT) operations. The invention provides polymer blends containing polyhydroxyamide and one or more flammable polymers. The polymer blends are flame-retardant and have improved durability and heat stability compared to the flammable polymer portion of the blends.
Since polymers typically burn readily, the ability to render a polymer flame-retardant without sacrificing its physical properties is critical to its intended application. KSC’s new fire-retardant polymers are formed using conventional polymer processing techniques to introduce a special additive at concentrations ranging from 5% to 8%. Flammability tests showed that the resulting polymer exhibited an increased limited oxygen index over the unmodified polymers. The unmodified polymers burned 15 times longer than these new materials with flame-retardant additives. In addition, KSC’s materials were found to be self-extinguishing, and the thermal stability of the modified polymers was determined to be significantly higher than the virgin material using ASTM E-1612, ASTM E-698, and TA 125 standards.
Toxic gas inhalation is a leading cause of death in residential building fires, so it’s also important that any polymer additives do not produce toxins when burned. If a fire does start, KSC’s fire-retardant additives have known combustion products that have little to no risk of producing supertoxicants that could be harmful if inhaled. This is an important safety benefit of this technology.
This technology has potential uses in textiles, protective garments, the aerospace industry (specifically fabrics and panels used in airplanes), construction (e.g., plastic deck components), electronics, and wire and cabling.