Scientists at Empa Laboratories were able to create a physically and chemically independent network of flame retardants within the fibers, helping to retain the inherent positive properties of cotton fibers.
Cotton is skin-friendly because it absorbs large amounts of water and maintains a suitable environment for the skin, so cotton represents three quarters of the global demand for natural fibers in clothing and home textiles.
Protective clothing provides paramount importance to firefighters and other emergency services personnel, as cotton clothing represents the inner layer worn by these people, which must include a number of characteristics, including: fire resistance and protection from biological contaminants, as well as water absorption, which are the characteristics that They are added by appropriate chemical modifications.
In order to carry out the required chemical treatment, the scientists used a trifunctional phosphorous compound (triphenylphosphine oxide), which has the ability to react only with specially added molecules (nitrogen compounds such as piperazine) to form its own network within the cotton.
This procedure makes the cotton permanently fire-resistant without impeding the “OH” groups. In addition, the physical phosphine oxide mesh is also not water-resistant.
The phosphine oxide nets are not affected by the washing process, after 50 washings, 95 percent of the flame retardant mesh is still present in the fabric.
To reinforce the protective properties of flame-retardant cotton, the researchers also incorporated silver nanoparticles into the fabric, which helps give the fibers antimicrobial properties that can withstand 50 wash cycles.
The researchers believe that there are two obstacles to the future marketing of the product, the first of which is to find a suitable chemical plant that can produce and supply triphenylphosphine oxide, in addition to registering triphenylphosphine oxide as a patent in Europe.