Replacements for Asbestos as a Heat Resistant Material

We have been aware of the health concerns of asbestos since the 1970s and ever since there have been widespread changes to find replacements for where it was commonly used. Asbestos saw a lot of use as a heat resistant product, but in recent years, we have found materials that do the same job and much safer.

Warning sign of asbestos

Asbestos has many properties which made it desirable for manufacturers and builders, such as sound absorption, affordability, resistance to fire, heat and electricity and decent tensile strength. However, it has been found that the inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause serious illnesses such as lung cancer, and its use in many countries was restricted, phased out or banned. Here are a few of the most commonly used alternatives for asbestos.

Fibreglass

Fibreglass is the most commonly used replacement for asbestos. It is used in almost every way that asbestos was, offering the same benefits and very few health concerns. Due to the material’s structure, there were concerns about the safety of fibreglass, but it was ruled out as a carcinogen in 2001. A downside for using fibreglass insulation is that is doesn’t have the tensile strength of asbestos or other heat resistant materials. This lends it to the potential of suffering more damage over time. In many cases, the strength is of not much concern, such as where it is only used for insulation, but in manufacturing industries, a material is required that is temperature resistant and strong.

PBI Fibre

Polybenzimidazole (PBI) fibre, is a synthetic fibre which was created and developed in the 50s and 60s and commonly used in personal protective equipment (PPE), particularly for firefighters and astronauts. The material is thermally stable and flame resistant, making it ideal to be used in environments which are faced with high temperature.

The main concern for PBI fibre as a PPE material is that it works so well regarding heat resistance that it can trap heat in. This makes it dangerous for the person wearing it, as it can become too hot, either due to the environment they are in or a high level of activity when wearing it.

Ceramic Fibre

Ceramic fibres are a commonly used asbestos alternative and one we make a lot of use of at Textile Technologies due to the heat resistant properties. Ceramic fibre is usually reinforced with glass which gives it added structural ability but does lower the operating temperature. Without glass, ceramic fibre can be used at temperatures 100 degrees Celsius or higher.

Ceramic fibre is lightweight and has a low thermal mass, which means it does not retain heat. It is an extremely effective material for insulation and is also resistant to thermal shock, making it suitable for many uses. The material is also available in several forms, from blanket and board to rope and braid, but it has also been classed as being possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Bio Soluble Alternatives

Despite the frequent use of ceramic fibre, fibreglass and PBI fibres as alternatives to asbestos there are still some concerns about the impact they have on health. As such, bio-soluble alternatives are also used. Bio-soluble has the advantage of particles dissolving in bodily fluids within weeks and clearing from the lungs and so are classed as being noncarcinogenic.

Get in touch with us to find out about insulation solutions available from Textile Technologies today.

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