“ECOFRAM" addresses the need for more sustainable flame retardants and showcases developments from science and industry

The International Conference on Eco-Friendly Flame Retardant Additives and Materials (ECOFRAM) is an important event focusing on environmentally friendly flame retardant additives and materials with clear focus on halogen free chemistry.

The third part of this event took place in Alès, France. More than 90 participants from research and industry from 11 countries took the opportunity to exchange and inform themselves about the state of the art and the latest developments in this field during 33 presentations.

In a total of 7 sessions spread over two days, a wide variety of topics on the subject of flame retardants (FR) were discussed like sustainable flame-retardant solutions that are partially already available in industry and bio-based flame retardant materials.

The solutions and approaches presented are relevant for applications such as textiles, transportation, building and construction (B&C) and electric and electronic (E&E) applications, thus underlining the importance for our industry and for end-users.

In the first session focusing on sustainable flame retardants (FR), Sabyasachi Gaan from EMPA, Switzerland, presented an approach for flame retardancy of PA6 by reactive extrusion, in which a physical network of flame retardant macromolecules is formed in the polymer during the extrusion process. Subsequently, fibers were produced and it was observed that the FR is prevented from leaching out.

In another presentation, Christian Battenberg, Clariant, Germany, explained Clariant's approach to introducing a renewable carbon feedstock (information here) on a mass balance basis for its products based on aluminum diethyl-phosphinate.

Although the clear focus of the research community and most new industry developments is on halogen-free flame retardants, existing solutions based on halogen-containing flame retardants were also presented by Ibanez Bruguez, ICL, Spain, and Daniel De Schryver, Albemarle, Belgium.

Even if the performance of individual products is good in specific systems, more and more such products are coming under the scrutiny of government regulation. A very recent example is the current proposed prohibition of decabromodiphenyl ethane in Canada (link here).

Another focus area was on green coating technologies. Here for example Jamie Grunlan, Texas A&M University, USA, introduced recent developments from his group on layer-by-layer (LbL) assembly and coatings based on polyelectrolyte complexation. By placing the flame retardants exclusively at the surface, a loss of bulk properties is prevented and only a lower amount for self-extinguishing behavior is needed.

Overall, this live event provided a good overview of new developments, needs and trends in flame retardant development and industry with specific focus on sustainable and bio-based solutions. Many potential chemistries are currently being investigated in scientific research and first approaches are being implemented in industry.