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Improved Fire Retardant Materials

Tech ID:
10-135 and 11-109
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Liang and Dr. Zhang
Licensing Manager:

Current fire retardant polymer composites contain additives that weaken their structure. This invention foregoes those additives and adds a single layer of Buckypaper to the composite. The result is a structurally sound, fire-retardant polymer composite that is ideal for aircraft and ships, where fires can be devastating.

Buckypaper is a free standing 'paper-like' material based on nanoscale dispersed carbon nanotubes. Due to its low density, small pore size, low gas permeability, chemical resistance and high thermal stability of carbon nanotubes, buckypaper acts as a physical protective layer to reduce fire spread, toxic smokes and gases generation during combustion. The nanotubes may also be applied using a spray method. The chemical inert nature of carbon nanotube also protects itself from atmosphere.

The combustion nature of polymer-matrix system is a major technical challenge that has limited the use of composites on board warships and aircrafts. The introduction of nanotubes on the surface of polymeric composites reduces the fire hazard and toxic smoke and gases generation, which allows significant progress in fire retardant composites. Due to the high electrical conductivity of buckypaper, this new buckypaper-added polymeric composite material can also offer lightning strike protection and enhance EMI shielding properties of the composite structure, which is highly desired for aircrafts and ships structures.

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  • The primary applications of such materials are advanced composites which require good fire/smoke retardant properties, such as composite structures used on ships, aircraft, etc.
  • Fire protection in aircraft where 40% of fatalities in impact-survivable accidents are due to fire, not impact
  • Firewalls in virtually any structure


  • 30-50 second delay in time to ignition
  • 50-60% reduction in toxic emissions and smoke upon combustion over the composite material to be protected
  • Reduction in smoke can reduce fatalities caused by disorientation and inhalation
  • Maintains the mechanical properties in the composite material to be protected
  • Improved durability and adhesion over current fire retardant coatings
  • Electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding properties
  • Lightning protection