However, as past experiences have shown us, used untreated, timber is highly flammable and combusts easily. Major cities such as London that heavily used wood in their construction have burned to the ground during fires. This is why modern construction standards require that wood be used only after treating it.
Protecting wood with an invisible coat
The wood used internally in buildings today needs to be either coated with fire retardant paint or covered with fire retardant boards made with gypsum and magnesia. This ends up hiding the natural grain and texture of the wood being used, taking away its aesthetic value.
Researchers at NTU came up with a solution that coats the wood giving it the much-required fire protection, but since the coating is transparent and just 0.075 mm thick, it is invisible to the naked eye.
“Most timber or wooden panels only have a transparent coat that protects them from moisture, weather corrosion, termites or pests, and are not designed to withstand high heat,” said Aravind Dasari, Associate Professor at the NTU School of Materials Science and Engineering, where the coating was invented.
“In our coating, we used technology to lock certain compounds and interact with the resin. They will actively participate in the chemical reactions in a systematic manner when exposed to high heat, thus leading to the formation of char,” he added. When exposed to fire, the coating becomes a char that is more than 30 times its original thickness. The char is engineered to be heat-resistant and insulates the wood from the high heat.