Mahmoud Salem of Kingston University in Surrey, UK, has used ash residue from power stations to develop a fireproof ceramic material. A thin coat of the material on a steel bar will allow it to resist temperatures above 950C. Even after being exposed to high temperatures for three hours, the temperature of the coated steel will not exceed 140C and the steel will not lose its strength. When buildings catch fire, conventional steel and iron beams lose their strength at well below their melting point, contributing to the collapse of the structure they support. This material is non-toxic, that is, it will not emit toxic gases during a fire as is the case with insulation material in use at present. The ceramic material has half the density of water and floats. It is so strong that is does not crack if pierced by a sharp object. As well as offering thermal protection to steel structures in the building industry, it can be turned into insulation panels and decorative tiles. Aerospace and offshore oil industries will also find it useful.
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