Inventor of the Week Archive
for a different Invention or Inventor
Patricia Billings of Kansas
City, Missouri has invented one of the most revolutionary---and potentially profitable---substances
in the history of the modern construction industry: a building material that is
both indestructible and fireproof.
Born in Clinton, Missouri (1926),
Billings studied art at Amarillo College in Texas. Her specialty was plaster
of paris sculptures. Her detour from art into technology came in the late 70s,
when a swan sculpture, after months of work, fell and shattered. Billings, who
knew that Michelangelo and other Renaissance sculptors used a cement additive
to give their plaster longevity, set out to create a modern equivalent.
After eight years of experimenting
in her basement, Billings succeeded, inventing a milky additive that acts as
a catalyst: when added to a mixture of gypsum and concrete, it creates an indestructible
plaster. But there was more: a scientist friend of Billings' realized that her
new material was also incredibly resistant to heat. So Billings returned to
her lab, and in eight more years she had created Geobond ®.
Geobond® products are so resistant
to heat that after being torched with a 2,000çF flame for four hours, it remains
lukewarm. Not even a 6,500çF rocket engine can make it burn. Because Geobond®
is non-toxic as well as indestructible and fireproof, it is also the world's
first workable replacement for asbestos.
Billings has won two patents for
her work, but she has kept the complete recipe for Geobond® a secret. And,
true to her independent spirit, she has turned down a $20 million buyout offer
from a company she was worried would bury the technology. Meanwhile, contractors
have begun to use Geobond®; and Billings' material never fails to impress
anyone who has seen a demonstration.
Now a great-grandmother, Billings
longs to return to her first love, sculpture. To this end, she has created a
new product, CraftCote to bring
the Geobond® technology full circle back to the art world. She hopes to
see her revolutionary products embraced by the mainstream construction market,
as well as the art and sculpture world, which they will certainly transform
For other American women who were artists and inventors, see our Profile of the Centennial Exhibition of 1876.