Invisible coating turns wood fireproof

An invisible coating that can “fireproof” wood has been invented by scientists at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore).

Flames against black background.
With the popularity of mass engineered timber growing in the construction industry Image source: Hans Braxmeier - Pixabay (symbol image).

Over the last decade, mass engineered timber is gaining popularity due to lower costs and faster construction, which sees productivity gains of up to 35 per cent. If the wood is harvested from sustainably managed forests, it also has a lower carbon footprint when compared to steel or concrete buildings. Current practices to protect the interior of wooden buildings from fires require the use of fire-retardant panels (typically, gypsum and magnesia boards) or the timber has to be coated with paint-like fire-retardant coatings, both of which generally conceal the natural wood grain of timber.

Natural beauty of timber

In comparison, the new invisible coating developed by NTU allows for natural beauty of timber to shine and yet can still provide a flame barrier when “activated” by fire. Invented by a team led by Associate Professor Aravind Dasari from the NTU School of Materials Science and Engineering, this fireproof coating is just 0.075 millimetres thick and is highly transparent, making it invisible to the naked eye. When heated up by a hot flame, a series of complex chemical reactions happens, causing the coating to become a char that expands to more than 30 times its original thickness. This char prevents the fire from combusting the wood underneath, as shown in an accredited lab test.

More information can be found on the NTU website.

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