If you've ever lamented the fact that putting your sofa right next to a warm crackling fireplace was dangerous, carbon nanotubes might one day come to the rescue—again. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology—or NIST—have created a carbon nanotube-based coating that makes the foam used in furniture considerably less flammable.
The revolutionary coating is created not unlike a microscopic club sandwich, where the nanotubes are squeezed between two layers of polymers, and that process is repeated four times until a multi-layer plastic-like coating is produced.
The researchers also had to develop a special technique to get the material to actually stick to foam, but since the resulting coating is thinner than one-hundredth the thickness of a human hair, cushions and other padding still feel the same when sat on.
After treatment they're about 35 percent less flammable, and if carbon nanotubes turn out to be as safe as we hope (at the moment it's not known if carbon nanotubes are actually a carcinogen) this new coating could actually be a safer alternative to the fire retardent chemicals we currently use. Which means that one day—hopefully—you could finally serve that candle covered birthday cake in the living room, or even in bed. [ScienceDirect via NIST via Gizmag]