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Technology & Innovation

Designing Better Home Protection Against Wildfires

A team of California scientists combined two ingredients commonly used in firefighting into an all-natural temporary spray gel that outperformed other coatings in lab tests.

What’s the Latest Development?

Scientists at California’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have created an experimental temporary gel coating that, when sprayed on a home with wood siding, could protect it from wildfires more successfully than other coatings currently available. In tests, the gel outperformed its peers both in terms of moisture retention — a coating that stays moist longer does a better job of holding off fire — and heat resistance. It was also less likely to slide (“slump”) off the siding than other coatings. Details appeared in this month’s Agricultural Research.

What’s the Big Idea?

With the frequency and intensity of wildfires predicted to increase in the future, researchers and others are stepping up their efforts to find effective ways to protect structures from damage. Although the gel is made up of water and two all-natural and affordable ingredients commonly used in firefighting — sodium bentonite clay and cornstarch — its formulation and subsequent test results may represent a possible breakthrough, one that ARS plans to patent. Best of all, says team leader Greg Glenn, “[i]n a best-case scenario, all you might have to do is wash the coating off your house after the fire.”

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