Environmentally Friendly Flame Retardants Based on Inorganic Nanosheets

EPA Grant Number: SU835705
Title: Environmentally Friendly Flame Retardants Based on Inorganic Nanosheets
Investigators: Sun, Luyi
Institution: University of Connecticut
EPA Project Officer: Lank, Gregory
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2014 through August 14, 2015
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Awards , Sustainability

Objective:

Because of the significant environment and health issues of many flame retardants currently on market, the objective of this project is to develop a cost effective environmentally friendly flame retardant based on inorganic nanosheets. In comparison to the conventional flame retardants, we aim to achieve the following goals: (1) similar or higher flame retardancy performance; (2) minimum release of toxic gases during combustion; (3) no leak of toxic chemicals during production, transportation, and usage; (4) similar or lower cost.

Approach:

Flame retardants play a critical role in fire prevention, helping save life and properties. However, they also generate significant environment and health issues. In this project, we aim to develop a novel waterborne halogen-free flame retardant coating composed of hundreds of layers of well aligned inorganic nanosheets, which can physically block heat/oxygen transfer and thus effectively retarding flames. The waterborne nature ensures that no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) will be released during coating formation process. This new coating will be achieved via one step co-assembly of inorganic nanosheets and polymers from their aqueous dispersion and thus can be operated continuously. It involves the co-assembly of nanosheets with a selected polymer, which possesses weak interactions (such as electrostatic force, hydrogen bonding, etc.) with the nanosheets. In this way, in the aqueous dispersion system, the selected polymer chains can attach to the inorganic nanosheets surface. During the subsequent co-assembly process, the nanosheets can be well aligned by either gravity or a physical force exerted by common industrial processing tools, with the polymer serving as the binder for the nanosheets to form a hybrid coating with a highly ordered layered structure, which leads to outstanding flame retardancy. This project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between students from Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Institute of Materials Science, and Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

Expected Results:

At the end of this project, we will have real coated samples to demonstrate flame retardancy performance on a vertical/horizontal combustibility tester. In addition, we will have detailed characterization results to show the microstructure of the coating, as well as a chart illustrating the optimization process. We plan to submit a journal manuscript for publication and present our results at a national conference. It is also planned to set up a website to educate people how significantly the current halogenated flame retardants are affecting our environment, health, and society, and how important it is to replace them with environment-friendly ones.

Supplemental Keywords:

environmentally benign substitute, green chemistry, nanotechnology, global consideration