Grandma's Goo

Years Of Experimenting. . .

Every year, fire kills about 5,000 Americans. What if someone could figure out how to build commercial and residential structures with materials that won't burn? Patricia Billings, a 72-year-old grandmother who lives in Kansas City, may have done just that. CBS News Correspondent Bernie Goldberg got her story for 48 Hours.

Patricia Billings has invented a building material she calls Geobond. This compound, which she stumbled upon by accident, is being used on certain houses under construction in Texas. Before Pat Billings became an inventor, she was a sculptor who had studied a little chemistry in junior college, about 50 years ago.

After years of experimentating with cement and plaster, she unexpectedly found her secret ingredient. She won't say what it is, of course. Whatever it is, when you mix all the ingredients together you get something that not only won't easily break, it won't burn.

In an effort to establish the effectiveness of Geobond, a controlled experiment was arranged in Kansas City. With local firefighters standing by, two buildings were doused with fuel and set on fire. Within minutes, the shack made out of regular materials was in flames, while the house composed of Geobond maintained its integrity. Not only that, but the Geobond house remained completely cool.

When presented with the prospect of striking it rich, Pat Billings maintains a modest mindset. "It'll be interesting," she says. "At my age, I'm not sure how much money you could spend."

Pat Billings says two big companies have offered her $20 million for her fledgling company. Pat turned them down.

The material may have a wider range of uses. Rocket scientists at Edwards Air Force Base in California are impressed, and they're running multiple tests on Geobond. They think it could be used on aircraft carrier decks or on the space shuttle launch platform, or any place where fire control is critical.

When asked how she wants to be remembered, Pat Billings puts safety over success. "I want to be remembered as the person who made a safe home for everybody. At my age, that's more important than money... Maybe."

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