Fire-resistant cable technology to improve safety

Monday, 27 May, 2013

An Australian plastic cable coating that transforms into a fireproof ceramic in a blaze maintains the integrity of electrical circuits for alarms, pumps and fans vital for safe evacuation and firefighting. Cable manufacturer Olex (a Nexans company) chose to partner with CSIRO to develop the new technology for making fire-resistant electrical cables. According to a CSIRO news blog, Olex has supplied over 1100 km of electrical cables to the Brisbane Airport Link Project in a contract reportedly worth $10 million to the company.

Conventional polymers (a type of plastic), which cover electrical wiring, typically melt between 100 and 200°C and disintegrate completely at about 300°C.

The challenge for CSIRO was to design a fire-resistant electrical cable that could keep electricity flowing in temperatures above 1000°C.

The solution was a unique ‘ceramifiable’ polymer cable coating material that combines the properties of a plastic with those of a fireproof ceramic. As the polymer melts and disintegrates in the heat, the ceramic forms a solid protective insulating layer, preventing short circuits and enabling the current to keep flowing.

In the event of a fire, the technology significantly improves safety. The cables’ ceramic shield maintains the integrity and continuity of circuits for building safety systems such as emergency lighting, alarms, pumps and fans that are vital for safe evacuation and firefighting.

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