Fire-retardant coatings for flame resistant buildings

A new technique to develop fire-retardant coatings for rigid polymer foam-based building materials has received $888,000 in funding through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowships program.

Led by Professor Hao Wang, from the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), the project comprises researchers from five Australian universities and four international universities.

With building fires an issue of concern globally since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, and homes in Australia also at risk from bushfires, the material could be a life-saving technology.

When exposure to fire, the front side of the developed foam rapidly carbonises to form an intact char layer as a barrier to stop the burning,” said Wang.

Part of the project’s attractiveness to building users is its ability to remain aesthetically similar in the interior, allowing for easy replacement.

“At the same time, the non-fire side keeps its original look,” said Wang.

“We believe these foams could replace the existing flammable ones and bring significant benefits by reducing energy consumption and costs associated with building fires.”

Another researcher from the USQ team, Dr Pingan Song, was noted by the grant as an excellent mid-career researcher. His work in this project which was deemed to be of national and international interest, went towards securing the grant. Song noted that the material would go towards removing the need for flammable insulation.

Almost all building thermal insulation materials are made from polymer foams, such as polyurethane and polystyrene foams,” said Song.

“Unfortunately, these polymers are intrinsically flammable and pose a high fire risk.”