Tech Thursday: Great Balls Of Fireproofing
In the beginning, everything was composed of four elements: fire, water, air, and earth. This primitive theory did a reasonably good job of explaining interactions. Stone did not burn because it was all earth, there was no fire in it. Wood was composed of fire from the sun, which the plants gathered, water, which could be driven out of the plants with fire, and a small amount of earth, which was evident as ash in the burned logs. Fire burned logs, because it was releasing the fire stored in them. Generally, earth was accepted as giving materials hardness and strength, which kept people from using it in garments; imagine weaving a coat from basalt. But one day, somebody broke open a rock, and found wool growing there. Now everyone knows that wool (being light) is made mostly of air, with a small amount of fire(since it burned, and kept you warm in the winter). Wool is not good to use around fire, since both air and fire are important parts of making more fire.
So, you can imagine this person's surprise when the wool didn't burn in a fire. In fact, it didn't seem changed at all! Of course this was the first encounter with or Asbestos. This fibrous variety of Serpentine has been used since the time of the ancient Greeks, and was available throughout history as luxury cloth, because of the fineness of it's fibers, and imperviousness to fire. Charlemagne supposedly impressed his guests with an asbestos tablecloth, which he would throw into the fire after the meal, claiming that his mystic powers were what allowed it to be removed unburned. Asbestos is still unrivaled as a mineral fiber, both because of its high melting point, and because of its very high strength, which is better than fiberglass for reinforcing concrete and plaster.
But it has fallen out of favor, because of its reputation as a chronic irritant, especially of the lungs, where it can cause irritation, and even serious cancer mesothelioma.
Luckily, over the last 30 years, enormous advances have been made in the area of fire proofing. We now have fireproof fabric, solid materials, and plastics, as well as coatings which give enhanced fire resistance. Here's a rundown of some of the biggies:
Insuflex makes fire-retardant blanket material, out of either fiberglass, silica-fiber, or aluminized aramid fiber. Their primary market is foundries for protection from molten metal splashes, just to give you an idea of the heat involved.
Nomex is Dupont's brand name of Aramid fiber with heat-resistant properties. Aramids are super long-chain synthetic polymers; a cousin of Nomex is Kevlar, the bullet stopper. You can find Nomex at Noah Lamport Performance Fabrics
Fire Retardant Plywood is available which will still burn if exposed to a long duration, high temperature flame, but will resist temporary exposure to flame, and will remain un-burned for longer, giving users more time to deal with the fire.
D-Blaze is a fire resistant solid wood product available in standard dimensions like 2x4s and planks
FyreRoc Fireproof Resin is a thermoset resin which will not burn, melt, decompose, or produce smoke or fumes, when exposed to temperatures up to 2000 degrees F.
Fire Free 88 is a paint-on fire resistant coating for wood and architectural materials.
For other coatings(there are tons to choose from) search for intumescent coating
For more fireproof options, check out this AZoM listing for heat resistants
If you can't stand the heat, you can get out of the kitchen... Or, you can make the kitchen, and your clothes out of something that can stand the heat, and keep cooking your dinner! Anyway, with all this fireproof stuff, just be careful out there; fire is fire no matter what you're building with. Also, some of these chemical treatments aren't the least toxic chemicals in the world; some of them are probably carcinogenic(It always seems to come back to that doesn't it). Luckily, though the risk of cancer is much lower than asbestos, and it's mostly a hazard to those installing the material or chemical, not those living in house with it. Stay safe, and don't burn your fingers.
Copyright 2004-2006 Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team