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Painting for fires
Published:  04 April, 2018

Microcapsules filled with fire extinguishing clean agent that can be mixed with paint have been launched on the world stage.

The microcapsules are between 50 and 80 microns in diameter and can be combined with almost any paint to provide fire-extinguishing capability wherever it is applied. The capsules, which are made out of a moisture-resisting polymeric shell, contain perfluoro(2-methyl-3-pentanone) heptafluoro isopropyl pentafluoroethyl ketone, a gaseous fire suppression agent that is better known as the 3M-branded Novec 1230.

The new technology, called Microcapsules, is being introduced by New Innovation Technologies Company (NIT), a Latvian firm that was founded at the beginning of 2017. NIT has unique worldwide partnership agreement and distribution rights.

According to company founder and CEO Olegs Muraskins, these microcapsules are already being used in Russia, Latvia and South Korea in a wide number of applications. Microcapsules on flexible composite sticking plates are used to protect electrical cabinets up to 65 litres in volume. In paint, they are found on electrical components in trolleybuses and trams, in engine and battery compartments on yachts, and inside the electrical cable ducts of buildings.

“The advantages of this product are the possibilities of its application in those areas where standard fire safety systems cannot be so effectively used or generally applicable. As one microcapsule does not exceed a size of 50 to 80 microns, it can be applied with a paint spray gun in a very thin layer. Advantages also include the ability to autonomously extinguish the fire at the initial stage, in seconds,” says Muraskins.

The development of this product began over 20 years ago by Russian scientists from St Petersburg and was finally patented in 2014. The main goal of its inventors was to create a product that would prevent fires caused by a short circuit in the electrical circuits in electrical outlets, electrical cabinets with expensive equipment, system units, and server stations.

Muraskins says that the clean agent-containing microcapsules have been tested under laboratory conditions by the manufacturer. “Testing showed that the casing in which the gas is placed is able to withstand a temperature not exceeding 120-130°C; in 100% of the tests, the extinguishant was released at higher temperatures.” The addition of paint or varnish did not affect the properties of the capsules, he says, “which makes Microcapsules to be a very attractive product for protecting objects in small rooms or places where the usual temperature does not exceed 120°C.”

Application-specific tests have also been carried out using microcapsule-coated law enforcement riot shields; in this instance, the paint extinguished the fire caused by the incendiary mixture within 5-20 seconds.

How the new product will be embraced on an international stage – and in which applications – remains to be seen; Muraskins regards its sheer novelty as the main hurdle. “But we have not encountered any obstacles in recognising the effectiveness of the product, as the companies engaged in fire extinguishing systems find it highly unique and innovative.” If NIT succeeds, painted with Microcapsules could become a standard coating for electrical boxes around the world.