Nomex is the brand name for a fire-resistant fabric that can withstand temperatures up to 1093 degrees Celsius. Nomex is similar in texture to nylon, but it has no melt point or drip characteristics like most synthetic fabrics. Nomex is also lightweight, non-absorbent and has high tear- and abrasion- resistant properties. It can last up to three times longer than traditional fabrics. Nomex was developed by Dupont chemical company.
Nomex is used in flight suits, race car driver's suits, firefighter's gear, EMS gear, NASA suits and military and industrial applications for its flame and abrasion resistance properties. In industrial applications Nomex provides protection against flash fire and electric arc hazards. In flight suits and racing suits, the lightweight, high-tensile fabric is valued for its practical application in case of accidental fuel fire. The U.S. military uses Nomex in its Multi-Climate Protection System gear to provide optimal wear combined with remarkable fire resistance.
Nomex fibres are inherently flame-resistant, meaning that the flame-resistant properties are built directly into the fabric itself. Thus, the flame-resistant properties of Nomex cannot be washed or worn out of the fabric. When exposed to a heat source, Nomex fibres swell and thicken creating a heat and air barrier between the heat source and the reverse of the fabric. This both protects the wearer of a Nomex suit from heat damage and prevents combustion within the suit.
Nomex is regulated by federal safety testing to ensure that its fire-resistant fabric properties are consistent. The most common test performed on Nomex is the vertical flame test. During a vertical flame test, a fabric is exposed to the flame of a methane burner for 12 seconds. The fabric is then measured for the length of char it retains after being removed from the flame, how much flame remains on the fabric after removal from the heat source, and how long the fabric glows after being removed from the heat source.
Nomex fabric should be cleaned in water that is 60 degrees Celsius or less using regular detergent. Higher temperature water will not damage the fabric, but may cause the colour to fade over time. Fabric softener should not be used as it will reduce the flame-resistance of the Nomex. Bleach should never be used on Nomex fabric as it will break down the chemical properties of the fabric. Dry cleaning Nomex is an excellent way to remove grease and oil from the fabric. Nomex dries quickly and shrinks very little.
Use with Kevlar
Nomex is often found used in combination with Kevlar. Kevlar is the brand name for another kind of flame-retardant fabric. Firefighter gear combines Nomex and Kevlar to create flame-resistant garments that provide the maximum level protection from thermal stress. Kevlar also improves the durability and cut-resistance of Nomex fabric, making it last longer and improving its already strong abrasion resistance.