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Asbestos alternative from paper

MATERIALS Cutting Edge

THE RACE has been on to find an alternative to asbestos ever since scientists realised the material's carcinogenic properties far outweighed its fire protection qualities.

Replacements such as intumescent paint have been effective but contractors still have half an eye open for alternative materials that possess similar fireproofing qualities to asbestos but without the health risks.

Research scientist Wolfgang Christ of the Franhofer Institute in Germany believes he has developed an alternative to sprayed asbestos that not only provides fire-resistance but could also help reduce the amount of waste paper being sent to landfill.

His sprayed-on material uses cellulose recovered from waste paper and a mix of minerals to form a fireproof insulating compound.

Wood derivatives and paper are normally combustible but these minerals transform the mixture, said Mr Christ.

He added: 'A number of inoffensive boron compounds melt in contact with fire, forming a protective coating around the fibres. This coating becomes solid without causing any significant loss to the material's thermal insulation properties.'

And he claimed the material can protect steel from corrosion, adheres well to the surface in thick layers and is easy to process when mixed with commercial binders.

Patents for the material have been granted but Hans-Karl von Engel of the Fraunhofer Patent Center is looking for companies with the manufacturing capability to produce it.