Technology 3 min read

Fire-Resistant Wallpaper Uses Biomimicry for Fire-safe Construction

Researchers in Shanghai led by Professor Ying-Jie Zhu developed a fire-resistant wallpaper which may be the next step in increasing fire resistance within households. All of this was achieved with the use of biologically inspired elements such as components of the human body and hormones.

Image by Claire McAdams | Shutterstock

Image by Claire McAdams | Shutterstock

Scientists have created a fire-resistant wallpaper that can now detect fire, trigger alarms, and prevent it from spreading. The best part: the design is inspired by nature.

We recently investigated how professional spaces are evolving and how they may look in the future. But, what about our homes?

We also previously reported on conductive walls in smart houses, but never before a next-gen solution like fire-resistant wallpaper. As a product, it encourages circular economies and reduces energy waste. It achieves this by leveraging adaptations carried out over millennia by nature.

“Fire-resistant wallpaper withstands flames, while a thermosensitive sensor triggers an alarm of sound and light. Credit: Chen et al. ©2018 American Chemical Society.” | Taken from Phys.org

Fire-Resistant Wallpaper With Built-in Fire Sensors

The fire-resistant wallpaper is made from environmentally friendly materials found in teeth, bones, and naturally occuring hormones which can detect heat. When it detects heat, the non-flammable material is transformed from an electrically insulating state to an electrically conductive one. This change also triggers a loud alarm and warning lights.

Researchers in Shanghai led by Professor Ying-Jie Zhu published a paper outlining this new technology and how it could enhance safety in the journal ACS Nano.

The wallpaper differs from past forms which are usually made of highly flammable materials like cellulose. Traditional wallpaper is often a leading cause of the spread of house fires. The fire-resistant wallpaper has “promising applications in high-safety interior decoration”.

Above all, the development could save lives and reduce the destruction of property in fire disasters.

How Fire-Resistant Wallpaper is Created

The wallpaper is based on hydroxyapatite. This is the main inorganic component of bone and teeth. The researchers found that by forming ultralong nanowires, the typically brittle material can be made flexible. This made it suitable to be made into wallpaper.

The researchers also used an ink-based thermosensitive sensor in the creation of the wallpaper. This “smart material” is capable of setting off an alarm in response to fire. It is also what makes the paper non-flammable.

This sensor is fabricated into the wallpaper using a graphene oxide ink. At room temperature, this is electrically insulating. When it is exposed to heat, oxygen-containing groups are removed. This makes the material highly conductive. When the sensor begins to conduct electricity, the alarm sounds.

Using Hormones to Solve Problems

To prevent the graphene oxide sensor from burning out quickly, the researchers modified it with polydopamine.

This material is based on the hormone and neurotransmitter dopamine. This modification means the graphene oxide has a lower thermal responsive temperature. The result is that the sensor responds to fire in about two seconds and has a prolonged alarm time of over five minutes.

Read More: The Edgy Labs Smart Home Update

Fire-Resistant Materials Offer Endless Possibilities

The researchers plan to investigate other applications of the new fire-resistant material.

In the future, the researchers also plan to scale up production of the wallpaper as well as investigate other applications of the new fire-resistant material.

For example, preservation of important paper documents, energy, air purification, water treatment, environment protection, anti-counterfeiting, flexible electronics, and biomedical uses could all be expanded with the use of this material.

The team is striving to explore the cost-effective and environmentally friendly production of ultralong hydroxyapatite nanowires. They also hope to collaborate with companies to realize industrial-scale production in the future.

What other products do you think we’ll soon see in next-gen homes?

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