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Water and fire-resistant paper could soon be coming to a store near you

Water and fire-resistant paper could soon be coming to a store near you

While the Chinese have been credited with the invention of paper some 2,000 years ago, this improvement takes the humble material to a whole new generation.

A research team at the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics in China has developed what is believed to be the world's first fire-resistant and water-proof paper.

The paper resists water even when its surface is physically damaged, and is unstained by liquids such as coffee and tea.

It is also able to withstand heat up to 200 degrees Celsius, making it fire-resistant. It can also be wiped clean with water, without smudging what is written on it — potentially offering a far more hardy archival material for documents to survive fire or water, the team said.

While there are ways of making paper flame resistant or less susceptible to fluids, this one is unique because it combines both properties, according to Professor Zhu Yingjie, the lead researcher on the project.

His team, which has been working on developing the material since 2008, is now applying to patent the technology and hopes for it to be on the market in three years.

Paper made of plant fibres are easily destroyed by liquid, but the team has made this one with hydroxyapatite nanowires.

Hydroxyapatite is a form of calcium found commonly in bone and teeth, and gives the paper its unique qualities.

"Traditionally, paper is made of plant fibers, which are easily destroyed by liquid," said Prof Zhu.

The paper is said to cost a "few yuan" more than the production cost of an equivalent A4 sized piece of paper, but the price might be reduced if it is mass manufactured.

Here's hoping to see it show up in stores in the years to come.