Chinese scientists develop fireproof, waterproof paper

A new paper produced with hydroxyapatite is both fireproof and waterproof.
A new paper produced with hydroxyapatite is both fireproof and waterproof.

A new fire-resistant paper developed by a team of scientists at the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is creating plenty of excitement. Zhu Yingjie, a researcher from the institute, and his team, developed a set of methods to produce paper with a new material called hydroxyapatite, which is actually the inorganic constituent of tooth enamel and bone. The invention was reported in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, a peer-reviewed scientific journal of the American Chemical Society. Best of all, the inorganic paper material is both fire-resistant and water-resistant. “Traditionally, paper is made of plant fibres, which are easily destroyed by liquid. Previous research attempts to produce waterproof paper found that it was difficult to achieve fire retardancy and water repellency at the same time,” Zhu said.

Shanghai Ceramics Image.In 2013, a doctorate student of Zhu’s was preparing hydroxyapatite nanowires. While trying to filter out the water and continue the experiment, he found that instead of hydroxyapatite powder forming on the filter paper, a film actually formed on it. This discovery inspired Zhu. He subsequently conducted more experiments to improve the material’s physical properties. “Traditional papermaking damages natural woods and damages the environment. Hydroxyapatite nanowires are an ideal building material for paper,” Zhu added. The newly published paper shows that the inorganic material behaves like paper, but with excellent thermal stability and with “astonishing” mechanical wear resistance, according to an anonymous peer reviewer in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.