small plans: nanotechnology for the building industry

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Carbon nanotubes used to create fire-resistant plastics

Materials scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology are using carbon nanotubes to make plastics more resistant to fire.

Jack Douglas and his colleagues found that plastics containing nantubes don't burn as easily as ordinary plastics. The nanotubes create a layer of insulation when plastic boils, and also reduce the bubbling that fuels combustion.

"Normally,” Douglas said, “when plastic burns, it looks like a lava field. There are a lot of hot cracks where heat is being released. But in plastics containing carbon nanotubes, you don't get those cracks forming."

The nanotube alternative may help reduce the reliance on the toxic additives traditionally use to make plastics fire-resistant.

Hear the interview with Douglas at Earth & Sky. (photo Frank Douglas)


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