Sizzling demand for halogen-free flame retardants

Innovator FRX Polymers should benefit, as market grows at compound annual 8.4% rate

According to new research, the market size of halogen-free flame retardants, which was $3.36 billion in 2015, is projected to reach $5.38 billion by 2021, registering a CAGR of 8.4% between 2016 and 2021. The new report from MarketsandMarkets, a global market research firm, Halogen-Free Flame Retardants Market, looks at the market by type (aluminum hydroxide, organ-phosphorus and so forth), application (polyolefins, UPE, ETP and others), end-use industry and region.

flame, arztsamui
Image courtesy arztsamui/
freedigitalphotos.net.

Making flame retardants safer by eliminating toxic chemicals has been an ongoing goal for a number of years. Flame retardants have been used primarily in mattresses, children’s clothing (particularly sleepwear), upholstered furniture and casings around electronics. Many of these flame retardants contained brominated chemicals (polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs), a class of organohalogens that were found to be toxic to humans.

According to an article, “Stop Playing ‘Whack-A-Mole’ with Toxic Flame Retardants, Health Advocates Urge," written by Lynne Peeples, Environment and Public Health Reporter at the Huffington Post, Congress banned PCBs because of health concerns, and “replaced them with a chemical cousin, polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE).” The problem with PBDEs is that they can migrate out of the materials into human beings through such innocuous means as house dust. Thus, the search for non-halogenated flame retardants.

One of the active players in the development of flame-retardant materials is FRX Polymers LLP. The Chelmsford, MA–based company won Frost & Sullivan’s Product Innovation of the Year Award in 2008 and 2013 for its environmentally friendly family of inherently flame-retardant plastics. In 2008, Frost & Sullivan wrote that the award was given to FRX Polymers “in recognition of the company’s creation of a new class of novel, high-performance, flame-retardant polymers that are used as transparent, high melt flow, non-burning specialty plastics technology and as polymeric phosphorus-containing flame-retardant additives. The company’s technology is far reaching in that it facilitates functional improvements in a variety of products: Electric and electronic devices, household equipment such as television set housings and kitchen appliances, electronic equipment housings (computers, fax machines, cell phones, PDAs, printers) and all types of electrical connectors and internals.”

In 2013, Frost & Sullivan noted that “FRX Polymers’ Nofia product has the ability to replace bromine-based and competitive halogen-free flame-retardant additives in commercial and industrial applications. The Nofia brand of inherently flame-retardant plastics and additives have the ability to address end-user needs for environmentally friendly non-toxic flame retardants. Frost & Sullivan research clearly shows that Nofia can be used to enhance the flame-retardant characteristics without changing the inherent characteristics of the targeted polymer or resin.”

On May 10, 2016, FRX Polymers and China’s Shengyi Technology Co. announced the joint development of a new copper-clad laminate (CCL) product with greatly improved dielectric properties compared with commercial halogen-free systems. The new CCL, based on FRX Polymers’ Nofia FR hardener system, is in the low loss region (0.005 - 0.010) with accompanying low dielectric constant. The breakthrough technology was unveiled in a joint technical paper presented at the IPC Expo in Las Vegas on March 17. The new CCL technology is expected to find initial applications in the smartphone and server segments of the printed circuit board market.

In addition to its electrical properties, the product also has high modulus, very low coefficient of thermal expansion, good peel strength, pressure cooker resistance and a strong UL 94 V-0 rating in the flammability test. This “game-changing development” is the result of a strong collaborative effort between the R&D teams at Shengyi and FRX over the last two years.

“We are proud to have worked with Shengyi Technology on this important development,” said Marc-Andre Lebel, President and CEO of FRX Polymers. Shengyi Techynology is a “world-class producer of CCLs with state-of-the-art manufacturing and R&D capabilities,” added Lebel.

Nofia phosphonates replace halogenated flame retardants, which are being phased out due to toxicity concerns, said FRX’s information. Nofia products have undergone extensive toxicology testing, received a favorable toxicological profile and have consequently been registered globally. They are produced using sustainable green chemistry principles such as a solvent-free production process, no waste by-products and near 100% atom efficiency. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2014 recognized FRX with the Environmental Merit Award, citing FRX as an example of an innovative New England company making a real difference by making products that reduce risks to human health and reduce environmental damage while simultaneously delivering fire safety. FRX was also awarded the Belgian Business Award for the Environment earlier this year.

Scientific advances in the area of chemicals and plastics has brought H.R. 2576 to the forefront of Congress. Called the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, this bill is an update to the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA), under which “the EPA banned just five chemicals,” noted Peeples in her article. On April 28, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee considered and passed S 697, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical for the 21st Century Act. The House Energy & Commerce Committee voted to advance H.R. 2576, with the final vote (47-0 with one abstention), to move the bill from the committee to the full House of Representatives.

SPI: the plastics industry trade association has sent out a newsletter asking industry participants to write to their congressional representatives and encourage them to vote for this bill so that the TSCA can be brought into the 21st century.   

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