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When Dorothy's home slammed down on top of the Wicked Witch of the West, the warty wench didn't succumb to the crushing weight of the house.

Remember how her legs curled?

She melted from the fiery heat generated when Dorothy's home re-entered the atmosphere.

(Obviously, this story isn't in Kansas anymore.)

Dorothy managed to survive because she somehow got wind of a new space age material she used to coat her home and protect it and her during the fiery re-entry.

That's how the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Commercial Technology Office might rewrite the classic story.

NASA has licensed Blackburg, VA-based Wessex, Inc. to adapt a new space age heat shield technology, Protective Ceramic Coating (PCC) to protect your home from a fate worse than, well, a certain witch's.

When sprayed or painted on in a layer no thicker than a garbage bag, Wessex's product, brand named "Emisshield" can protect building materials to withstand fiery temperatures ranging from 1,800 to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit. And a gallon of the stuff costs as little as a gallon of house paint.

Adapted from the heat shielding solution of deionized water, silicon dioxide and silicon carbide designed to protect space shuttles during reentry, Emisshield is one of the latest examples of NASA's effort to find earth-bound uses for space-age technology.

"We are trying to give the taxpayer a double return on their money," said Carolina Blake, chief the NASA-Ames Commercial Technology Office at Moffet Field in Mountain View, CA.

"Taxpayers fund us for space missions and because space is a new frontier we have to come up with new technologies to cope. When we reach a point of a commercial application we try to transfer it to a company that can do the work," she added.

Each NASA center from Ames to the Stennis Space Center near Bay Saint Louis, MS has a Commercial Technology Office responsible for transferring space-age technology to the private sector and lots of it ends up in your home.

Since 1915, as well as numerous military, aeronautic and aerospace applications, transferred space technology has come in the form of everything from cordless tools to Velcro and yes, Tang.

Wessex reformulated the heat-shielding concoction to be used to coat brick, metal, ceramics and other materials. Emisshield-coated wood is building- and fire-code approved to be used instead of masonry to build firewalls and fire doors in both commercial and residential applications.

Roofing material manufacturers have asked for a batch of the stuff to coat popular wood shakes and shingles threatened by ranging forest fires that can rain hot embers.

What's most attractive about the material is that it exhibits the property of high emissivity, which means the material tends to radiate heat. This allows the protective coating to reflect heat away from the surface it covers, thereby increasing the capability of materials it covers to withstand temperature levels far beyond a normal range.

"We wanted it for earth-based applications for two reasons, it radiates heat back out into the atmosphere and it protects the underlying substrate from heating up, deteriorating and catching fire," said John Oliver, Wessex CEO and president.

"This material is really unusual. The more you heat it the better it gets. We coated the inside of a 24 inch steel duct to an aluminum (smelting) furnace. Before, the duct was so hot you couldn't touch it. We coated it inside and now when it goes down for repairs you don't have to wait for it to cool off. You can touch it," Oliver added.

Oliver says because the material radiates heat back from whence it came, it also has energy saving applications when applied to a surface facing an area designed to retain heat.

"We've had requests from aerospace, industrial furnace operators, people in automotive industry for the heat in racing applications. We are meeting with the NASCAR people and we are working with military branches who have heat applications where there is either projectile or jet engine or velocity generated heat," Oliver said.

For proprietary reasons Oliver could not mention building material makers under contract to use the product.

"We've been approached by roofing material makers because you have problems with fires out there (California) and someone used it to coat a pot bellied stove and it worked," Oliver said.

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