Scientists develop a fireproof plastic

Thursday, 05 May, 2005

Known as a ceramifiable polymer, it behaves like an ordinary plastic at room temperature but the high temperatures experienced during a fire cause it to harden into a type of ceramic, allowing wiring to be protected from the flames.

Conventional plastic insulation coating on copper conductors cannot take that kind of extreme heat, the result being deformed cables and a shutdown of the relevant electrical system. But the protective properties of the ceramifiable polymer mean that electrical devices such as sliding doors, elevators, computers and emergency equipment can continue to operate during a fire. Cables insulated with the new material have performed well in heat resistance testing at temperatures of up to 1050°C. Ordinary plastic insulation lasted less than 10 minutes. Flame-retardant plastic held out only slightly longer, while the ceramifiable plastic was still doing its job even after two hours. New and further developments in ceramifiable plastic are already in the pipeline and applications in fireproofing homes and vehicles may also be on the cards.

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