Protective polymers

Tough new fire-resistant coating materials called HIPS are being developed by CSIRO researchers in Melbourne.


The HIPS, or Hybrid Inorganic Polymer System coatings can withstand temperatures of more than 1,000°C compared to current commercial coatings used on building materials and structures, which break down between 150-250°C.


HIPS coatings contain an inorganic geopolymer resin, and a small component of polymer additives. The polymer additives improve the flexibility and waterproofing properties, and provide strong adhesive properties.


Project leader, Dr Damian Fullston of CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering, said that CSIRO was seeking coatings manufacturers interested in partnering with CSIRO to customise the HIPS to meet product specifications for selected applications.


‘Geopolymers are an emerging class of ceramic-like inorganic polymers produced at room temperatures that have the potential to transform the building products industry,’ Dr Fullston added. ‘They are not only fire-, blast- and acid-resistant, they are also strong, castable, sprayable and extrudable, making their potential uses almost limitless.’


HIPS has the potential to form thin fireproof coatings on timbers such as weatherboards, and on metals such as structural or galvanised steel. It can also protect brickwork, either as a thin coating or as a render. HIPS can be applied by spray equipment, roller or brush, and cures from ambient temperature to below 90°C.


As water-based products, HIPS coatings are free of volatile organic compounds, do not burn or produce heat, and do not release smoke or toxic chemicals at temperatures up to 1,200°C.


The strength of HIPS materials is comparable with that of phenolic resins in heat-sensitive applications, but HIPS retains higher strength at higher temperatures. HIPS formulations are tailored to be interchangeable with phenolic resins, and have higher fatigue resistance than normal phenolics.


CSIRO researchers also see a potential to manufacture fireproof wood composites and fire seals from HIPS, but have not fully explored these applications to date.