Binders and Coatings

Research project

FireCellCoat – Fire-protection coating for wood following the example of nature

With its unique structure and chemistry, the Canary Island pine defies forest fires. An outstanding performance by Mother Nature! We have taken this as our role model and are developing a fire-retardant structure based on nanocellulose. As a component of wood coatings, it is intended to provide wooden components, both indoors and outdoors, with effective fire protection which will remain weatherproof for many years. We are thereby pursuing an innovative approach to the manufacture of durable, flame-retardant building products on the basis of sustainable resources.

Top: Daylight view of a group of Canary Island pines on a hill; Below: Close-up shot shows a section of the trunk of a Canary Island pine tree with fissured bark.
© Fraunhofer WKI I Arne Schirp
Kanarische Kiefer (Pinus Canariensis).
Microscope image of a piece of bark.
© Fraunhofer WKI I Dirk Lukowsky
Cross-section through a piece of bark from the Canary Island pine (approx. 1 cm thick and 4 cm long), showing the multi-layered structure of the bark.

Buildings made from steel and concrete currently dominate the market. Their production is, however, extremely energy-intensive and releases large quantities of CO2. Building components made from wood and other renewable raw materials are more climate-friendly and use fewer resources, but they have one decisive disadvantage: they are inherently combustible. For the competitiveness of wooden buildings, effective fire protection is therefore of crucial importance. For this purpose, fire-retardant coatings are used, amongst other products. In this context, there is a growing interest in products which are more environmentally friendly and more durable than those currently available on the market - particularly with regard to weathering stability in outdoor areas.

As the starting material for our new development, we are using the natural substance cellulose in the form of nanoscale fibers, known as microfibrils. These are constituents of the plant cell wall. We modify the microfibrillated cellulose (MFC) in order to obtain fire-protective properties. Using this, we then construct a macroscale multilayer structure based on the role model of the Canary Island pine. We additionally utilize the MFC in the synthesis and formulation of binders for wood coatings. Both approaches are intended to retard the flammability and combustibility of wood components, in both interior and exterior applications, for a sufficient length of time. Simultaneously, we conduct further tests in order to fulfill technical requirements such as scratch-resistance and durability.

The project will be rounded-off by an analysis of the environmental impact and life-cycle costs compared to conventional fire-retardant wood coatings.

With our project, we are making a contribution towards climate and resource protection and are supporting the development of a bio-based recycling economy (bio-economy).

Project partners

  • VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd
  • Norsk Treteknisk Institutt
  • Teknos Oy R&D


Official project title: Bioeconomy in the North 2018: FireCellCoat – Bio-inspirierte Holzbrandschutzbeschichtungen auf Basis von mikrofibrillierter Cellulose (Bio-inspired fire-protection coatings for wood, on the basis of microfibrillated cellulose)

Funding body: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Funding reference: 031B0925

Project management: Project Management Jülich (PtJ)

Duration: 01.01.2020 to 31.12.2022