Last edited 25 Sep 2020

Fire retardant

Workers apply intumescent paint to a floor beam at the 44th Street facility. Source: MTA Construction & Development Mega Projects.


[edit] Introduction

A fire retardant is a substance such as a coating, powder, foam, gel or spray, that is used to slow - and eventually stop - the spread of fire. It is a preventive measure that can help limit a fire’s spread by triggering a chemical reaction.

[edit] History

The earliest form of fire retardants (which were thought to have originated many centuries ago) were substances such as vinegar, alum and clay that were used to treat timber and some fabrics.

More complex fire retardants were introduced in the 19th century in the form of flame retardants for fabrics. These were developed by Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac, a French chemist who made a number of discoveries in the idea of temperature and its relationship to gas pressure (Gay-Lussac’s Law or Amontons's law).

His exploration of the use of salts as fire retardants was groundbreaking, but it wasn’t until the 1900s that more effective measures would be introduced in the form of flame retardants.

[edit] Fire retardant or flame retardant?

Modern fire retardants and flame retardants have similar purposes - to control fires - but they achieve this by different methods:

NB Fire retardants can also be dropped from planes to extinguish forest fires.

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