The term fire retardant coatings refers to substances which have either physical or chemical properties suitable to fight flames and prevent them from spreading. These materials have been chemically altered in labs in order to possess their unique characteristics which make them immune to combustion. Highly flammable substances like gas have these ingredients added to them so as avoid accidents and casualties.
A good example that shows the working of these materials is the use of carbon dioxide in fighting flames. The carbon dioxide which is normally packed in extinguishers acts as a retardant. When it is sprayed onto a flame, the gas separates the fuel and the oxygen in the air. This makes the reaction at the flame impossible to continue and the reaction stops.
These flame repellants are engineered in high tech labs and are divided into two categories. These are the chemically acting and the physically acting materials. Chemical agents are then divided into three. The first, intumescents, refers to a coating that is applied on surfaces. The substance swells up and provides an insulating layer when there is an emergency.
Secondly, we have those repellants that work in the gaseous state in their efforts to stop spread. These are mainly hydrocarbons, organic in nature belonging to the haloalkane group and work by interrupting the fusing of oxygen and the fuel that is burning. Once this interruption occurs, the flame can no longer sustain itself and it dies.
The solid state also holds some tricks when it comes to dealing with flames and preventing the damage they bring with them. These materials work by melting and flowing all over the burning surface when they experience very high temperatures. They cover the burning surface and prevent further damage.
When it comes to those materials that offer protection from combustion through their physical properties, they are found to work in several ways. One way is to have a substance that does not support combustion forming a layer and displacing oxygen. Carbon dioxide is a good example of this. Cooling is another way where something like a gel may be used to lower the flame temperature and stop the reaction.
Retardants are widely used all over the world in various respects depending on the situation at hand. Some reactions will only respond to chemical methods while others will be stopped by physical means. Forest fires for instance are controlled by flame retardant spray. Fireproofing wood is done because it is highly susceptible to combustion.
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