Natural Fiber-based Fire Rated Boards

Technology Overview

Commercially available thermal barrier panels in the construction and building industry are typically made of glass fiber reinforced refractory materials (more commonly, magnesia and gypsum) or fiber cement boards. With high costs associated with these boards (in particular magnesia and fiber cement) along with their susceptibility to hydrolysis (water activity), there is a huge demand and need for alternate materials that can serve the purpose of fire barrier, have the desired levels of mechanical strength, moisture resistance, and acoustic performance, that are yet economical. This is the basis of this technology where the cradle-to-cradle concept is emphasised.

Natural fibers like oil palm fibers (OPF) are used in the development of these boards. OPFs or OPF mats are pre-treated with non-halogenated fire retardants before impregnating them with an organic and/or organic/inorganic binder to make boards. These boards upon exposure to direct flame or intense radiation (according to a standard ISO 834 fire curve) provides substantial protection. Based on different tests that were performed in the laboratory, the product complies with BS476 Part 4 and Part 22 along with other standards associated with mechanical properties. Apart from the waste management advantage, other competitive advantages of this technology include water resistance and sound absorption. As many developers are adopting the drywall systems based on boards instead of conventional brick walls in recent construction projects due to their simplicity and sustainability, there is a huge potential for these novel boards.

Technology Features & Specifications

The key features of this technology include:

  • Natural fibre made boards have the potential to be multi-functional: flame retardant + water resistance + sound absorption
  • Highlights the key aspects like waste management and construction productivity
  • Eco-friendly and uses of natural by-products. Even the resin is NOT based on formaldehyde as typical fiber boards
  • The cost of the natural fibers is extremely low ~$100 per ton
  • Fiber sources such as from jute, coconut etc. may be used depending on the ease of availability
  • The processing and manufacturing of these boards is compatible with existing wood chip based boards manufacturing facilities

Potential Applications

Typical examples of fire rated board uses include:

  • Dry partition wall, tunnel and concrete linings
  • Finishing material for wall/ceiling encasing of load-bearing steel beams/columns
  • In pre-fabricated, pre-furnished units such as bathrooms
  • Protection of cross laminated timber structures which are gaining more traction

Customer Benefits

Customer benefits include:

  • Significant cost advantage
    • Typical costs per m2 of commercially available vermiculite-based coatings: $35-40/m2; conventional intumescent paint: at least 3-4 times of the vermiculite coatings; and fire rated boards: $80-120 /m2.
    • For these novel fire boards, the cost of palm fiber is only around $100 per ton and the chemicals required for treatment ~$10-15/kg, the only cost involved is the cost of resin.
  • Multi-functionality of boards:
    • They prevent concrete spalling under fire/thermal loads/shock; sound absorption; mechanical strength; water resistance; and more importantly, are green and environmentally friendly (waste management).

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