Light steel beams are often coated with intumescent paint as a way of protecting them against fire – literally with a physical barrier, usually formed using several layers of paint.

Nanoscientists are now discovering ways to streamline the fireproofing process, though, by adding nanomaterial fillers to the intumescent paint, making it more durable.

This allows it to be applied to steel beams off-site, without the worry that it might become scratched during transit and leave an exposed area more easily affected by fire or heat.

Using these ‘second generation’ intumescent paints offers cost benefits of up to 50% when applied off-site, and 25% when applied on-site.

Veronique Dehan, secretary general of the European Convention for Constructional Steelwork, says: “It combines a series of nano-additives carefully selected with tin chemistry to improve performance and sustainability, and it is more environmentally friendly compared to most of the commercially available solutions.”

The innovation is a shining example of how perennially popular building materials like structural steel are still as important now as they ever have been.

And thanks to present-day technology, their characteristics and capabilities are being complemented and enhanced, allowing valuable materials like structural steel to continue to cater for ever-tighter safety standards in large-scale construction.