Italian researchers have found a new use for DNA: as a flame retardant. Coating cotton cloth with extracted DNA, the scientists found that the genetic material reduced the fabric’s flammability.

DNA coated match sticks

When heated, DNA’s phosphate-rich backbone produces phosphoric acid, which helps replace water in cotton fibers with a flame-retarding residue. At the same time, the bases, which contain nitrogen, produce ammonia, which inhibits combustion and interacts with the residue to form a protective shield over the cloth.