Keep an eye out for all-new
inherently flame-retardant engineering compounds developed for electronics
Growing regulatory review of
brominated compounds is spurring new development from both resin and additive
One interesting product is a newly
patented polyphosphonate from FRX
Polymers that is transparent and a close cousin to polycarbonate. These new polymers are nonburning specialty materials
that can actually improve mechanical properties in compounds.
"While much research has been done on polyphosphonates
over the last 50 years, FRX Polymers is the first company to commercialize them,"
says founding CEO Marc Lebel. "We have developed a cost-effective
manufacturing route and through intensive research efforts over the last 4
years we have dramatically improved the properties of these polymers."
FRX is working with major polymer
and FR additive manufacturers and has also developed the synthesis process for
one of the key phosphorous-containing monomers used to produce
Flame retardance is usually
achieved through addition of chemicals that can reduce component properties.
But that's not the big reason a push is underway to develop FR alternates. New
regulations characterize all chemical substances in use in terms of their
environmental and human health impacts. And 2008 was a watershed year for FR
regulation. The first steps in the European REACH program took place with
pre-registration of chemicals completed by Dec. 1. The California Green
Chemistry Initiative gained momentum. And flame-retardant chemicals remain a
focus for specific regulatory developments such as the European Union's RoHS
directive and state legislation in the USA.
Primary issues under review are bioaccumulation, toxicity,
environmental persistence and emissions during combustion.
Two brominated FR additives, penta-BDE (decabromodiphenyl
ether) and octa-BDE, have been banned in the European Union. Use of decabromodiphenyl
ether will be banned from use in computer and television housings starting next
year in Maine.
The State of Washington
is also considering restrictions on use of deca-BDE.
Producers of brominated chemicals, such as Albemarle, say there are several problems with
- They typically do not have same amount of
- Reliability has not been confirmed in use;
- They require costs for conversion;
- Product availability is uncertain and they are
- Generally higher in cost.
Some of these arguments are slowly losing ground as new
technologies emerge, many of them proprietary and highly secretive. In fact,
virtually every major supplier of engineering compounds for electronic
applications has introduced nonbrominated and nonhalogenated alternates, many
with improved mechanical properties. Some have as many as two or three years of
Starflam compounds from Sabic Innovative Plastics are said to have mechanical
and electrical properties that exceed those of traditional materials using brominated
and red phosphorus additives.
"Until now, there were no good alternatives to traditional
reinforced polyamides," says Nitin Apte, general manager of LNP when the new materials were introduced.
The LNP Starflam X-Gen Z270 compounds combine
non-halogenated flame retardance and low smoke performance and meet UV94 V-0
standards at low thicknesses as well as IEC60335 requirements. Sabic IP is
introducing new forms of high-performance, inherently flame-retardant Ultem
polyetherimide (PEI) resins, film and
fiber/foam composites at the National Plastics Exposition in Chicago June 22-26.
BASF is introducing Elastollan
1190 A 10 FHF, a new halogen-free, flame retardant grade of TPU for wire and
cable applications. Attributes of the new TPU are said to be excellent abrasion
resistance, low temperature properties, hydrolytic stability and fungus
The new halogen-free TPU complements a line of BASF
halogen-free materials that are available in a broad range of hardnesses (80
Shore A to 54 Shore D).
A new 25-percent glass fiber-reinforced nylon 6 compound
that provides an alternative to halogenated flame retardant will be introduced
at the NPE by Chem
Polymer, a unit of Teknor Apex Company.
"Because non-halogenated FR systems have been more difficult
to incorporate into glass-filled compounds than brominated ones, relatively few
non-halogenated nylons have been available in North
America," says Richard Barnes, technical manager. "Our new Chemlon
compound will provide a higher performance alternative for North American
molders seeking to serve the world market for components requiring flame
In May, Ticona Engineering Polymers announced a new
low-chlorine liquid crystal polymer
alloy grade to its portfolio of V-0 halogen-free polymers. The new grade
is inherently flame resistant and can withstand high surface-mount technology
soldering temperatures used in the electrical and electronics industry.
Both Vectra LCP and Fortron linear polyphenylene sulfide offer
inherently flame-resistant properties without the use of halogenated or
non-halogenated flame retardants.