Even when lives aren’t lost, the property destruction wrought by fires can be heartbreaking. The coatings used in most buildings don’t help, tending to break down at relatively low temperatures and often producing toxic fumes or smoke. To tackle this issue, researchers at CSIRO Australia have come up with a new coating material that can be cheaply produced, applied as easily as paint, and yet withstands temperatures of up to 1830°F (1000°C).

The hybrid inorganic polymer system or HIPS, as it’s known, is essentially a stone-like material that most closely resembles ceramic. HIPS is water, fire, blast and acid resistant, inherently strong and, because it’s largely inorganic, produces no smoke or toxicity, even at temperatures of up to 2190°F (1200°C).

What’s most interesting about HIPS, however, is that it offers almost unlimited potential uses – it can be cast, extruded, sprayed or painted. It could provide a fireproof coat for timber or steel, be applied as a render on brickwork or even be used as a component in the manufacture of wood composites. It 's also easily colored and can be cheaply made from industrial by-products.

Sound too good to be true? Well, for the moment, yes. CSIRO is still looking for a manufacturer to partner with in developing a range of commercial product.

View gallery - 2 images