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Stronger and cheaper — locally invented new flame resistant fabric

This new, non-flammable fibre, which will rival the well-known aramids, was developed by Belarusian scientists and made in the Republic in an industrial way
By Dmitry Patolichev

The lighter clicked, and the demonstration began. The tongue of flame played under the piece of fabric held in the speaker’s hand. Several seconds passed, yet the fabric did not burn. However, after 10 seconds it started to smoke and it seemed to me that, perhaps, the experiment had failed.

But I was wrong. It seems that it was just the dye which had started to evaporate, and the smoke soon disappeared. Sure, the fabric faded slightly, but it easily survived the test of fire, whilst not losing its durability.

But this is nothing new. Clothes for firefighters have been made from non-flammable fabric for a long time, so why is the aforementioned fabric interesting?

This new, non-flammable fibre, which will rival the well-known aramids, was developed by Belarusian scientists and made in the Republic in an industrial way.

“High-strength polymer fibres were created in the USSR in 1970s as a response to the creation of the high-quality American Nomex made by DuPont,” says the manager of the laboratory of poly-contingent organic compounds of the Institute of Chemistry of New Materials of NAS, Candidate of Chemical Sciences, Vyacheslav Olkhovik. “But the response was not equivalent. Being inferior to Nomex in durability and thermal stability, the Soviet fibre created in SvetlogorskKhimvolokno JSC, was not fire-resistant, although did not cause burning. Therefore in situations where high temperature and open flame resistant fabric was required, the imported fibre was used, which was a very expensive option, even by Western standards.

We set ourselves the task of solving the problem and, at the same time, of making the fibre more affordable. After several years of research we were successful with part of polymeric molecule that was embedded into Soviet, high-strength fibre. In addition to that, a further component used in the reduction of burning was also used. Thus, there appeared a domestic equivalent of Nomex. It appeared to have the same fire-resistance, whilst surpassing the original on durability and elasticity. For the manufacturer it is important that the new production is much cheaper than the imported product, and that it did not require a rearrangement of the technological process.

15 tonnes of the new fibre have been already produced. It is used not only for the manufacture of fabric for firefighter’s suits, but also as materials for filters working at high temperature.

Scientists plan to not limit themselves to just these fields of application. The work on the new polymer could be used for micro-reinforcement of automobile tyre casings, in particular for BelAZ, and it will help to remove the superficial cracking of rubber. The testing of the new material in asbestos free clutch plates and brake disks are currently in progress. They also aim to dilute the polymers in nonaggressive, organic solvents which would be suitable for creation of strong, heat-resistant coverings.
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