Saving Lives—with Wallpaper?: Researchers design wallpaper that detects fire

If you’re redecorating your home, consider wallpaper; it may save your life.

At the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Professor Ying-Jie Zhu and a team of researchers have developed a wallpaper that is made from environmentally friendly, non-flammable materials. On top of this impressive feat, the wallpaper can also prevent the spread of a fire and set off an alarm when there is a fire present. This development is great news for those who wish to be a bit more conscious of their interior surroundings. Traditional wallpaper is highly flammable because it is made up of plant cellulose fibers–not exactly something you want to line your walls with should you wish to prevent a fire from spreading.

The flame retardant paper is thanks to the same component that is found in bones and teeth: hydroxyapatite. The nanowires that are within the paper are coated with the hydroxyapatite substance. In an interview with, Zhu said “the fire-resistant wallpaper has a white color, mechanical robustness, and high flexibility, it can be processed into various shapes, dyed with different colors, and printed with a commercial printer. Therefore, the fire alarm fire-resistant wallpaper has promising applications in high-safety interior decoration to save human lives and reduce the loss of property in a fire disaster.”

The nanowires that connect to the alarm are dependent on the burn off of graphene oxide–the material that, when completely burned off, cannot complete the circuit and set off the alarm. The researchers found this substance burned off too quickly, thus only set the alarm off for three seconds–not long enough to awaken a sound sleeper. To overcome this problem, the researchers modified the graphene with polydopamine, a natural polymer, which reduces the thermal response of the compound, thus allowing the alarm to sound for over five minutes. Graphene oxide also acts as an insulating material for electricity at room temperature, and when exposed to heat, becomes highly conductive–perfect for a sensor to set off an alarm.

The researchers hope to expand and increase production of the wallpaper while remaining environmentally conscious.

For a more information on the wallpaper, please click here.


Are you developing a technology or material that can save lives? Did you know your R&D experiments could be eligible for the R&D Tax Credit and you can receive up to 14% back on your expenses? To find out more, please contact a Swanson Reed R&D Specialist today or check out our free online eligibility test.

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