Developed by a team of North American researchers, the carbon-based silane nanocoating makes it possible to control how fire interacts with different materials. Although not completely fireproof, it could help prevent devastation by essentially giving firefighters and inhabitants more time.
It works by regulating the amount of oxygen that reaches the target material, thus slowing down the combustion that happens on a molecular level. When the film comes into contact with flames, its outer layer burns, while its inner layer chemically changes into a protective sheet of microscale carbon tubes.
The coating itself is almost undetectable and can be applied as a spray or by using a fume chamber. Also, unlike many other fireproofing measures, it doesn’t produce toxic emissions on burning because it uses small chemical reactions to tame flames. Alongside fire, it has also shown potential in keeping out water and insects.
By making fundamental materials, such as paper, cardboard and wood, more hard-working and robust, the coating has various applications, including temporary structures, according to the team. The researchers are now looking at commercialisation.
As we strive towards a more climate-resilient future, this development could also play a vital role in protecting against disasters, like wildfires.