Fire resistant gear could soon become much more effective and whole lot lighter, thanks to prawns. Prawn shells are naturally fire resistant, which is why Australian researchers focussed on them as the main ingredient in a revolutionary fire retardant. The other benefit of prawn shells is that they are extremely lightweight, making them perfect for a number of applications, but most notably as a coating for firefighting uniforms.
New Fire Resistant Material Will Be Ultra Lightweight
Because they are coated with fire repellent, traditional firefighting uniforms are extremely heavy, not to mention breathing apparatus on the backs of rescue workers, tools and other equipment in hand, often in rough terrain, or up and down stairs and ladders, while hauling heavy hoses. The load is so burdensome that firefighters often suffer from heat fatigue, endangering their own lives, but also risking the rescue being attempted. That’s why during their annual assessments, fire fighters in full gear – weighing around 10kgs, must be able to walk at least 100m, with 25kg weights in each hand, come rain or shine. During annual training in Cape Town, the overwhelming majority of recruits fall out at the start.
Australia Motivated to Pioneer New Fire Retardant
Being the location of regular devastating wild fires, Australia has high motivation to research effective tools and firefighting aids. Nuclear scientists at the Lucas Heights Facility came up with the new ultralight material, which they believe could end up being more effective than any other fire resistant material currently available.
Aside from the prawn shells, which is used as a form of binding, the new material also contains titanium and carbon. When coated on clothing it repels flames, dispersing the heat across its surface and stopping the intense heat from penetrating. And here’s the clincher, less than a millimeter of the product is needed, meaning it is far lighter than the traditional fire retardants.
They need to do a bit more testing and find a way to mass produce this, but they expect to get it onto the market within the next two years.