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Effective Bio-based Flame Retardants for Consumer Electronics and Automotive Applications

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HASNEH (Effective Bio-based Flame Retardants for Consumer Electronics and Automotive Applications)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2016-08-31

Flame Retardant (FR) additives save lives. Their inclusion in plastics save lives but they are also predominantly made from harmful chemicals which damage human health and the environment. In the automotive, electronics and home appliances sectors, regulations require all plastic components must have fire-retarding properties. Despite their effectiveness at slowing fires, fire retardants containing halogen (e.g. chlorinated and brominated substances) are banned in the electric and electronic equipment (EEE) sector in Europe due to their harmful impact on both humans and environment.
The main objective of the technical work performed during the phase 1 period was the development and feasibility testing of the new halogen-free Flame Retardant (HF-FR), a combination of the initially developed Lignosulphonate Flame Retardant (LS-FR) and commercial Ammonium Polyphosphate (APP). It was estimated by a team of industry experts brought together that such an improved-performance HF-FR would have significant advantages in terms of thermal stability and cost while being environmental-friendly and produced by sustainable resources. Commercial-wise it was speculated that such a FR has the potential to gain significant market share in Engineering Plastics – a huge and growing market.
Halogen flame-retardants are added to products such as mattresses, baby strollers, changing pads, the casings of computers and TVs, and building insulation to keep them from catching fire. But because some of these compounds do not stay in products – they can migrate into dust - almost all people have these compounds in their bodies. Some of the highest levels of flame-retardants are found in children, mostly because of their hand-to-mouth habits. Halogen flame-retardants have been classified as chemicals that have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive, developmental and immune system problems. Eliminating the halogen element in FRs would help fighting these cruel diseases.

A considerable shift of the market into halogen-free FRs would also help reducing harmful halogen emissions to the atmosphere (green-house effect) and support the war against global warming.
During the phase 1 period, Daren Labs focused its efforts on the market analysis and identification of a strategic path for the penetration and growth of LS-FR – based biopolymers. In order to reach effective conclusions, Daren Labs assembled a team of highly experienced industry experts for a week of intensive business-development brainstorming. The results of the market analysis showed that although eco-friendly biopolymer have significant market potential due to their eco-impact, their overall market share in the current polymer industry is currently only a fraction of a percent with only very slow market penetration expected in the next 10 year. With that in mind, it became clear that the real potential lays in improving currently-available semi-green FRs that are widely used in the plastics industry.
Based on their potential chemical-compatibility, it was proposed by the advisory board that the combination of Ammonium polyphosphate (APP), a non-halogenated FR commercially produced by Clariant (under the brand name Exolit) and our LS-FR might yield a new, lower cost, improved performance APP formulations. This would be a highly sought-after product with great market potential and environmental impact. The technical part of the Phase 1 focused on the development and testing of this new material.
The new “modified APP” (mod-APP) material was developed in Daren Labs in a process that is now in patent application process. The preliminary analytical testing of this new FR confirmed the initial estimations of improved thermal stability alongside strong intumescence – two well sought properties. Also, the low cost of the LS raw material impacts the overall cost of the mod-APP FR proportionally to its content (in the range of 20%-50%).
To confirm the feasibility of compounding, FR and mechanical properties of the mod-APP with Engineering Plastics, three commercial plastics where chosen for testing Poly Propylene (PP), Poly Amide 6 (PA6) and Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT).
Several kilos of the mod-APP were produced and sent to extrusion moulding at Aimplas Spain. During the compounding process several formulations were prepared for each plastic, then injected to produce FR burning and mechanical testing samples. These samples where then tested according to the UL-94 FR standard as well as for mechanical properties. The main conclusions of these tests are:
1. All three plastics are process-able with mod-APP
2. All three plastics showed similar FR performance compared to commercial APP
3. The mechanical properties tested of all three were not degraded compared to commercial APP
Additional experiments to fine-tune these formulations are already underway, however these promising results alongside the strong value proposition have already attracted the attention of three medium-small European compounders interested in becoming early-adopters for this new FR technology.
During our work, and despite the relatively short time given tha fact a new famility of materials was developed, we were able to show good feasibility for new, non-halogen flame retardunts that would (1) perform at least as good as the current ones in terms of fire retardance and maechnical properties and (2) cost siginificantly less. This combination is key for moving a traditional industry such as the engineering plastics, to using more human and environment friendly materials. This shift in materials can positively impact society in several vectors. First as previously explained, the assimilation of non-halogen FRs has the power to reduce illnesses such as Cancer and immune system problems. Moreover, the reduction of halogen-based FRs will also contribute to the decline in greenhouse emissions affecting global warming. As biopolymers become more cost-effective, our FRs will help pushing these favourable materials to market by ensuring the low cost of “green” FRs. In terms of economic effect, it is expected that Lignosulphonate, the base material for our FR and a waste stream of the paper industry also abundant in Europe, would create many jobs opportunities such as local production sites for our green FRs.
Biopolymers samples after successful horizontal burning tests indicating the flame
HASNEH modified-APP value proposition (in red)
PA6 samples after injection moulding with commercial FR (grey) and HAsneh FR (black)