Albemarle is looking to extend the product range of its new Earthwise GreenArmor flame retardant, specifically looking at products that enable high-gloss plastics in the electronics sector. Ray Dawson, Albemarle global director, product advocacy, told MPW that the flame retardant line, which was announced last December, is currently going through a process of intensive evaluation, with developmental quantities available for customers. "The use of a new material does depend on a good bit of homework by downstream users," Dawson said, "so they're looking closely at GreenArmor, deciding where it has its fit." Dawson believes that Albemarle will be able to undertake full-scale production by the early part of next year, with manufacturing to likely occur at the company's Magnolia, AR site.
Developed as part of its effort to wind down the use of decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE) flame retardants, GreenArmor is a polymeric flame retardant that does contain bromine, with the company asserting that in certain application areas bromine is required to meet fire-safety standards. The company also offers phosphorous- and inorganic-based flame retardants. Albemarle has announced that it will phase out decaBDE from the marketplace through the end of 2012, with "one or two application areas" extended through 2013, according to Dawson. "As we transition out of deca," Dawson says, "we would be looking to ramp up the available volume of the GreenArmor product."
In addition to electronics, with an ongoing need for flame retardants in electronics equipment enclosure, Dawson said Albemarle also anticipates applications in electrical connectors, automotive, and building materials. Elsewhere in transportation, Dawson aid Albemarle has had conversations with Boeing, regarding where in the aircraft GreenArmor might find applicability. "Deca has a very wide range of areas of application and we believe that GreenArmor should be suitable for the majority of those," Dawson said. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so we have to see how the next six months of evaluation goes and see how the product finally stacks up technically and commercially."
At this point in time, Dawson believes the major resins that GreenArmor will be used with will include high-impact polystyrene (HIPS), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), and some alloys, including polycarbonate (PC)/ABS, with the potential for use with polyester in connectors. In terms of pricing, Dawson acknowledged the need to be commercially competitive, but added that production economics are ultimately driven by volume. "My sense is that to begin with there may be some sort of premium," Dawson said, "but as time goes by, and volumes pick up, we would anticipate economies of scale to come into play."
Regardless of price, Dawson said the phase out of decaBDE and the overall regulatory environment can not be ignored. "I think at the moment, in the world of regulation, we're at something of a watershed," Dawson said citing REACH in Europe and the proposed reform of the toxic substance controls act (TSCA) in the U.S. "We're going to see over the next 12 to 24 months continuing evolution of the regulatory landscape." —Tony Deligio