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Quality Fabric Of The Month

Demand-Activated FR: Smart Fiber Technology

Turnout suit thermal liners made using DuPont™ Nomex® On Demand™ technology expand up to 500 percent in the presence of extreme heat to provide additional thermal insulation to firefighters.

Janet Bealer Rodie, Managing Editor

D uPont™ Nomex® meta-aramid fiber, developed by Wilmington, Del.-based science-based products and services provider DuPont, has been protecting firefighters, soldiers, industrial workers and others who face exposure to flames and intense heat since 1967. Turnout suits worn by firefighters may be constructed with three layers including a thermal layer, a moisture barrier and an outer shell made with varying amounts of Nomex and DuPont Kevlar® para-aramid fibers and filaments. A thermal liner traditionally composed of two or three spunbonded batts of Nomex E-89™ now may contain one batt of Nomex E-89 and one of Nomex On Demand™ - DuPont's newest thin and breathable premium smart-fiber-technology-based Nomex product, which alters its structure and expands when internal temperatures reach 250°F to trap more air and provide up to 20-percent more thermal protection than a traditional Nomex liner.

When DuPont™ Nomex® On Demand™ is exposed to temperatures approaching 250°F and above, the batt expands four to five times over its original thickness, providing up to a 20-percent increase in thermal protection over traditional turnout suit thermal liner materials, while remaining flexible and allowing the firefighter to maintain effective functionality.

"With Nomex On Demand, the thermal liner remains thin and flexible for good mobility in routine conditions, but when the internal temperature reaches 250°F - at which point there is greater potential for a burn injury - the batt senses the temperature and self-activates and expands," explained Jeff G. Fackler, global marketing manager, DuPont Personal Protection. "As the temperature increases towards 250°F, the batt may expand two-fold if it's only for a couple of seconds. If beyond that temperature or for longer, it will expand as much as four to five times over its original thickness in a matter of seconds."

Once expanded, Fackler added, Nomex On Demand remains in that expanded condition, but even then, it is still quite flexible and does not impact the firefighter's ability to function. In addition, there is no long-term durability issue with its expanded state, he said.

"For firefighters who fight a fire a certain way, for example, leading with one shoulder towards the fire, the reaction of Nomex On Demand in that area provides a custom level of protection, but other crew members also will be protected if something unpredictable occurs," he said.

DuPont™ Nomex® meta-aramid fiber has been used in turnout gear to protect firefighters since 1967.

Nomex On Demand meets or exceeds National Fire Protection Association 1971, 2007 Edition specifications for performance and has excellent wash durability, according to DuPont. Fackler said the company is working with mills and conducting wear trials with some third-party agencies. While the initial emphasis is on its use in firefighters' turnout suits, other applications also are under consideration, including gloves and automobile racing suits as well as oil and gas and military applications.

The technology, currently offered commercially in the United States and Canada, is expected to be available worldwide in late 2009. As a premium product, Nomex On Demand is selling to mills for approximately 10-percent more than current thermal liner products such as Nomex E-89, and the end-product cost should be no more than 5-percent higher than the cost of current products.

For more information about DuPont™ Nomex® On Demand™, contact Jeff G. Fackler, +804-383-4920; jeff.g.fackler@usa.dupont.com; www.nomexondemand.dupont.com.

April 14, 2009