Lava Inspires Coating To Protect Buildings From Fire, Potentially Saving Lives
By Alexa Heah, 25 Jan 2022
A team of researchers led by Professor Pingan Song of the University of Southern Queensland looked to one of the hottest substances on Earth and developed a non-toxic coating that can extinguish fires and protect buildings from flames.
The idea of a hybrid coating came to them through lava, which Professor Song said “is like a viscous flowing liquid but non-flammable.” When exposed to high heat, the new mechanism works by melting and forming a flowing ceramic layer that’s non-combustible.
“Inspired by this interesting phenomenon, we designed a fire-retardant coating that can create a non-combustible ceramic layer which can offer fire protections for the underlying substrates, just like a fire shield,” Professor Song explained. The project was supported by the Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, with its findings published in the journal Matter, as per AuManufacturing.
According to the Good News Network, the coating could be sprayed onto construction materials, including foam, timber, and steel.
In the event of a fire, it would stop the building from being engulfed in flames, preventing repeats of incidents such as the Grenfell Tower disaster in London or the Notre-Dame blaze in Paris.
“Polymer foams were identified as the main cause of recent catastrophic disasters, particularly the Grenfell Tower fire. Solid wood materials, also widely used in buildings but extremely combustible, can also trigger fires, like the Notre-Dame de Paris blaze in 2019,” he added.
Although fire-resistant coatings have been used in construction for decades, most of them aren’t as effective or too costly to cover entire structures.
Professor Song said that the new invention offered a higher level of protection, and could also be used to coat furniture, mining tunnels, and transportation networks.
“Our fire retardant coating produces a very robust and thermally stable ceramic layer, compared to existing coatings, which usually produce a protective layer that is fragile and degrades at high temperatures,” he said.
In the next three years, the new coating will undergo further tests before its commercialized and mass-produced for use.
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