Conventional paints transmit or absorb most of the intense infrared (IR) radiation emitted by fire, causing them to contribute to the spread of fire. The present invention comprises a fire retardant paint additive that reflects the thermal IR radiation emitted by fire in the 1 to 20 micrometer (.mu.m) wavelength range. The important spectral ranges for fire control are typically about 1 to about 8 .mu.m or, for cool smoky fires, about 2 .mu.m to about 16 .mu.m. The improved inventive coatings reflect adverse electromagnetic energy and slow the spread of fire. Specific IR reflective pigments include titanium dioxide (rutile) and red iron oxide pigments with diameters of about 1 .mu.m to about 2 .mu.m and thin leafing aluminum flake pigments.
This invention was made with U.S. Government support under Contract No. DE-AC03-76SF00098 between the U.S. Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. The U.S. Government may have certain rights in this invention.