Given how much humans love setting things on fire, it’s a shame we’re so sensitive to heat. But you play the cards you’re dealt, so chemists and materials scientists have come up with all kinds of clever ways to control flame. On the right is a conventional fire-resistant garment. The material on the left is a multilayer self-quenching fabric system from W.L. Gore called Pyrad. The outside layer is weatherproof nylon and just underneath it is a layer of graphite-studded polymer. When extreme heat hits, the graphite poofs up as the nylon melts, combining to form an inert and insulating char. Beneath that layer is a tough expanded polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE) membrane—Gore’s bread-and-butter material—that keeps the garment intact and a base layer that also expands when exposed to heat.
Credit: W.L. Gore
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