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New fire-resistant polymer coatings

By Tim Wright

Published July 8, 2009
Researchers have developed a new class of fire-resistant polymer coatings that they claim are not only cheap and versatile but are also able to survive much higher heat. A team at CSIRO (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research Organization, India) in Australia has developed the fire-resistant coating materials, called HIPS (hybrid inorganic polymer system), which can withstand temperatures of up to 1000°C and could be applied to building materials.

According to the researchers at Melbourne on June 25, 2009 HIPS coatings contain an inorganic geopolymer resin and a small component of polymer additives, which can form thin fireproof coatings on timbers such as weatherboards and on metals like galvanized steel.

"They are not only fire-, blast- and acid-resistant, they are also strong, cast able, spray able, and extrude able, making their potential uses almost limitless," said lead researcher Damian Fullston. "Geo-polymers are an emerging class of ceramic-like inorganic polymers produced at room temperatures that have the potential to transform the building products industry. The polymer additives in HIPS improve the flexibility and waterproofing properties, and provide stronger adhesion, which are important properties for a coating."

As water-based products, HIPS coatings are free of VOCs, do not burn or produce heat, and do not release smoke or toxic chemicals at temperatures up to 1200°C, the researchers said.

Geo-polymers are cost-competitive, since they are made from readily available raw materials. They can also be derived from industrial by-products such as fly ash and blast furnace slag. They can be cheaper than organic resins and colored with pigments or dyes.

The strength of HIPS materials is comparable with that of phenolic resins in heat-sensitive applications, but HIPS retains higher strength at high temperatures. Its formulations are tailored to be interchangeable with phenolic resins, and have higher fatigue resistance than normal phenolics.

CSIRO also sees potential for the manufacture of fireproof wood composites and fire seals from HIPS technology, but has not fully explored these applications.

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