Flame Retardant Effectiveness on Cotton Fabric
Matt Digoy
November 9, 2008
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Matthew S. Digoy
Mrs. Smith
Science
9 November 2008
Flame Retardant Effectiveness on Cotton Fabric
ABSTRACT
This paper describes a science fair experiment that is trying to determine which fire
retardant is the most effective on preventing fires. This is something that has a real life
value to all home owners. The research I did helped me to select Flamex-PF as the
product I felt would be the most effective. Research also showed that cotton is the most
flammable fabric in homes. My hypotheses stated that Flamex-PF would both ignite more
slowly and extinguish more quickly.
The results of the experiment only partially support my hypothesis. Four trials were
performed with consistent results. This experiment did prove that using fire retardants can
reduce the damage caused by fire and that Flamex-PF was the best.
INVESTIGATIVE QUESTION, PURPOSE AND HYPOTHESIS
Investigative Question: Which flame retardant is the most effective against making
fabric burn?
Purpose: The purpose of this experiment is to prove that flame retardants do
prevent and slow down fires in fabric and show people that using the most effective flame
retardants could save lives and prevent burn injuries to people in homes, hospitals, hotels,
etc.
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Hypothesis: If Flamex-PF fire retardant is applied to cotton material, then it will
take longer to ignite the material and will extinguish more quickly than cotton material that
is treated with either ForceField FireGuard or FRP-103 Dry Flame Retardant because
Flamex-PF has been tested and rated higher than the other two products.
INTRODUCTION
I decided to do this project because when I lived in Ecuador many houses did not
have electricity and so candles were used for light instead. This was the cause of many
fires that ended up burning children. My sister used to volunteer in the burn center of the
government children’s hospital, and she would tell me about the horrible fires that burned
the kids.
Deaths from fires and burns are the fifth most common cause of injuries/deaths in
the United States and the 3rd most common cause of fatal injuries in the home. In the year
2006 in the United States, every 162 minutes someone died because of a fire and every 32
minutes somebody was injured. I am interested in working with these products to help
lower the number of these tragedies.
I began my research by looking on the internet for flame retardant products. I
chose three products because they were different in their price, in their form (two were
liquid and one was powder), and they all had different ratings. Flamex-PF was tested in
accordance to NFPA-701, ASTM E-84, UL 723, UBC 8-1. ForceField FireGuard was
tested in accordance to NFPA-701. The last product, Dry Flame Retardant, did not say
that it was tested in accordance to any of these organizations. Since Flamex-PF was tested
in accordance to many different standards, I thought that it would be the most effective.
I chose to use a thin cotton fabric because my research showed that it is one of the
most flammable fabrics in homes. It is followed by polyester, then wool. Fabrics can be
placed in three categories. They are readily flammable, moderately flammable, and
relatively non flammable. Cotton falls in the readily flammable category. Since oxygen is
needed for a fire, the ability for air to get through the fabric makes it more flammable. The
saying “cotton breathes” is about the feature of air being able to pass through the fabric.
Also, I found that the lighter weight the fabric the more it should burn, because air can
travel through it easier.
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MATERIALS AND METHOD
Materials:
1 spray bottle of Flamex-PF
1 bag of FRP-103 Dry Flame Retardant
1 spray bottle of ForceField FireGuard
1 candle
2 stopwatches
1 lighter or box of matches
1 non-flammable cookie sheet
16 squares of cotton fabric (13 cm x 13 cm)
1 ring stand
1 burette clamp
1 pair of stainless steel tweezers
Aluminum foil
Method:
Variables:
The independent (manipulated) variable:
The flame retardant used on the cotton material
The dependent (responding) variables are:
The time it takes for the cotton to ignite
The time it takes for the flame to extinguish
The constants:
The amount of fire retardant used on each of the cotton square
The temperature in the test room
The type of material (same cotton piece)
Size of cotton material (13 cm by 13 cm)
Candle type
Stopwatches
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PROCEDURE
1.
Prepare cotton fabric.
(a) Wash and dry cotton fabric using warm
water and small amount of detergent (no
fabric softner)
(b) Iron fabric and cut into sixteen 13 x 13 cm squares.
2.
Divide the 16 squares of fabric into 4 groups of 4 pieces each and label:
FF - ForceField FireGuard
PF - Flamex-PF
D - FRP-104 Dry Flame Retardant
Do not label the last group (control group)
3.
Treat cotton fabric (use tweezers to handle fabric):
(a) Lay 4 squares for each group on a separate piece of aluminum
(b) Saturate group 1 (FF) by spraying 20 times on each side
(c) Saturate Group 2 (PF) by spraying 20 times on each side
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(d) Saturate Group 3 (D) by first mixing powder with water (1 cup of Dry
Flame Retardant mixed with 1 liter of water) and then dipping the fabric
in the solution
(e) Do not spray anything on Group 4 (control group).
4.
Hang all squares on a string by two clothespins to dry for 24 hours.
5. Gather materials and get ready to test over the non-flammable cookie sheet.
6. Take one square of the cotton fabric and clip it onto the ring stand using the
Burette clamp and light the candle with lighter.
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7.
Take the lighted candle and ignite the cotton fabric vertically so the fire is
directed onto the end of the cotton fabric.
8.
Measure Responding Variables:
(a) Start stopwatch 1 when the lighted candle is placed under the cloth.
(b) Stop stopwatch 1 when the cotton ignites.
(c) Start stopwatch 2 when the cotton ignites.
(d) Stop stopwatch 2 when the cotton finishes burning.
(e) Record readings from both stopwatches.
9.
Repeat steps 6, 7 and 8 for each piece of fabric to be tested until all trials are
done.
10.
Record all data for all groups in the notebook.
RESULTS
In my results I have two different responding variables, which are how long it takes
the cotton to ignite and how long it takes for the fire to extinguish after it begins to burn. I
picked these two variables because I felt that they were the most important when it comes
to fire prevention. It was obvious that the cotton fabric with no treatment reacted very
differently when compared to the cotton fabrics that had the fire retardants on them.
Although there was a difference in the speed that the treated fabrics ignited, you can see
that there is only a very small difference in how long the treated fabrics burned.
The charts and tables below show the results for each of the two responding
variables with the result of each flame retardant used and then the average making it easier
to read and see which product performed the best. I performed four trials to ensure that I
was accurately comparing the products.
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Flame Retardant Performance
Time Fabric Took to Ignite (In minutes/seconds)
Trial 1
Trial 2
Trial 3
Trial 4
Avg.
ForceField FireGuard
1:49
2:31
0:50
1:41
1:42
Flamex-PF
3:18
0:51
4:36
4:42
3:21
Dry Fire Retardant
0:44
1:32
1:03
1:02
1:12
No Treatment
0:00
0:00
0:00
0:00
0:00
Time Fabric Took to Ignite
4:48
4:19
3:50
3:21
2:52
ForceField FireGuard
2:24
Flamex-PF
Dry Fire Retardant
1:55
No Treatment
1:26
0:57
0:28
0:00
Trial 1
Trial 2
Trial 3
Trial 4
Time Fabric Took To Ignite
(Average of all Trials in Seconds)
3:50
3:21
2:52
2:24
1:55
1:26
0:57
0:28
0:00
ForceField
Flamex-PF
Dry Fire
No Treatment
FireGuard
Retardant
Treatment
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Flame Retardant Performance
Time to Extinguish the Flame (In Seconds)
Trial 1
Trial 2
Trial 3
Trial 4
Avg.
ForceField FireGuard
2.96
2.66
1.84
4.63
3.02
Flamex-PF
4.84
4.26
3.03
1.30
3.36
Dry Fire Retardant
6.75
1.43
3.09
1.40
3.17
No Treatment
28.57
31.78
33.06
26.25
29.92
Time to Extinguish the Flame
35.00
30.00
25.00
ForceField FireGuard
20.00
Flamex-PF
15.00
Dry Fire Retardant
No Treatment
10.00
5.00
0.00
Trial 1
Trial 2
Trial 3
Trial 4
Time It Took To Extinguish
(Average of all Trials in Seconds)
30.00
25.00
20.00
15.00
10.00
5.00
0.00
ForceField
Flamex-PF
Dry Fire
No Treatment
FireGuard
Retardant
Treatment
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CONCLUSIONS
Based on the results of my experiment, my hypothesis was partially proven correct.
Flamex-PF did take significantly longer for the fabric to ignite. As shown in the data from
the experiment in my results section, Flamex-PF took 3 minutes 21 seconds longer than
the fabric with no treatment, and it was approximately 2 minutes longer than fabrics treated
with the other two products. However, Flamex-PF was not come out better in the time it
took to for the flame to extinguish. Although ForceField FireGuard extinguished more
quickly, I believe that in this part of the experiment the times where so close that it didn’t
make much of a difference.
I am glad that I did more than one responding variable because if I had only done
the section of how long it took to extinguish, then my hypothesis would have been
disproved. I believe that this experiment proved that Flamex-PF really is the best brand.
If I could do this experiment again, I would change the material to a thicker piece
of cotton because the one I used was so thin that it allowed the fabric to become
completely saturated by the liquid. I also would have not saturated the material completely.
I would probably choose to more lightly spray the material on each side to see if that made
a more significant difference.
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Works Cited
"Factors Affecting Textile Flammability." Brantford Fire Department. Feb. 2008.
http://www.brantfordfire.ca/dept_OFM_tex.htm .
"Fire Deaths and Injuries: Fact Sheet." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Aug.
8, 2008. http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/fire.htm .
National Fireproofing. 12 Nov 2008 http://www.frspray.com/.
"NFPA 701: Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films."
National Fire Protection Agency. 2008. http://www.nfpa.org/ .
Shield Industries, Inc. 2008. http://www.shieldindustries.com/furniture-fabric.htm .