The use of halogenated flame retardants in plastics is steadily declining because they are volatile, pose an environmental risk and are difficult to recycle. Microcapsules, fibers and melamine resin foams represent some of the chief alternatives.
As successfully as the endless variety of plastics have established themselves on the market, these multifaceted materials show another face when it comes to fire. They melt and feed the flames like the petroleum from which they were ultimately produced. As a preventative measure, a variety of flame retardants are added to plastics, yet this introduces a number of problems. Additives often alter the mechanical properties and electrical insulating effect of plastics. Especially brominated and chlorinated additives migrate through the material and can damage metal and electronic components. Moreover, they represent a health risk and interfere with the recycling process. Yet fire safety regulations require the use of flame retardants.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP is developing combustion-resistant and self-extinguishing plastics. Last November members of the working group, directed by Dr. Gerald Rafler, received the Friedrichs Prize for new technologies, along with 15,000 Euro in prize money, for their innovations and development of new materials. The prize is awarded by the German Federation of Industrial Cooperative Research Associations "Otto von Guericke" AiF. The new materials are already being tested and prepared for market introduction by the Austrian company Agrolinz Melamin GmbH.
Dr. Johannes Ehrlenspiel | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
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