Enhancement of fire resistance and mechanical performance of polypropylene composites containing cellulose fibres and extracellular biopolymers from wastewater sludge

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In the present research, a bio-based flame retardant (FR) was prepared using a biopolymer derived from wastewater sludge to improve the fire performance of polypropylene (PP). Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), which were extracted from wastewater aerobic granular sludge, were absorbed into cellulose-based fibres, such as flax and toilet papers. Thermogravimetric analysis results indicated that the EPS-cellulose fibres played a significant role in enhancing the char formation of PP composite. Furthermore, the incorporation of the bio-based FR into PP restricted its vertical burning characteristics, and at the same time enhanced the tensile moduli of the composites. The reaction between phosphoric acids from EPS and hydroxyl groups of cellulose fibres improved dehydration and char formation of the composites to enhance the overall fire reaction properties. This study opens up new possibilities for the wastewater-derived biopolymer “EPS” to prepare the bio-inspired FRs for cellulose-based fibres and composites, and enhance sustainability of wastewater sludge treatment.