In an age where plastic (and aluminum) gadgets are bursting into flames left and right, we'd say it's about time some manufacturers looked into what CSIRO is cooking up. Scientists at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization have devised a plastic that morphs into a flame-denouncing "ceramic" structure when exposed to fire, and although the newly formed substance doesn't cool down the situation per se, it does provide a useful barrier to slow the spread of flames. The polymer transforms into a heat-restricting blockade when facing "temperatures as high as 700 degrees," but we're left to ponder what (presumably not-so-good) condition the hardened plastic would be in should things get any more heated. Considering that fires can ignite and get way out of hand relatively quickly, designers said this plastic reacts substantially quicker than humans can, and it could provide the extra time necessary to reach folks stranded in a high-rise blaze, for example. Potential applications for the two-timing plastic include oil rigs, cargo ships, aircrafts, offices, and other highly populated public buildings, but we're envisioning this going even further; it could presumably show up in flame-breathing robot protective gear or in the construction of electronics that run a bit toasty -- but who knows, maybe we're just blowing smoke.

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CSIRO unveils fire-proof plastic