This paper aims to develop a novel method, i.e., sol-gel combined with layer-by-layer assembly technology, to impart flame retardancy on polyacrylonitrile (PAN) fabrics. Silica-sol was synthesized via the sol-gel process and acted as cationic solution, and phytic acid (PA) was used as the anionic medium. Flame-retardant-treated PAN fabric (FR-PAN) could achieve excellent flame retardancy with 10 bilayer (10BL) coating through layer-by-layer assembly. The structure of the fabrics was characterized by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). The thermal stability and flame retardancy were evaluated by thermogravimetric (TG) analysis, cone calorimetry (CC) and limiting oxygen index (LOI). The LOI value of the coated fabric was up to 33.2 vol % and the char residue at 800 °C also increased to 57 wt %. Cone calorimetry tests revealed that, compared to the control fabric, the peak of heat release rate (PHRR) and total heat release (THR) of FR-PAN decreased by 66% and 73%, respectively. These results indicated that sol-gel combined with layer-by-layer assembly technique could impart PAN fabric with satisfactory flame-retardant properties, showing an efficient flame retardant strategy for PAN fabric.
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