PFAS- and PTFE-Free Solution May Be Emerging for Flame Retardancy

FRX Innovations, a maker of flame-retardant products, has filed for a patent for a PFAS-free product that may hold potential for polycarbonate applications.

Daphne Allen

May 5, 2023

3 Min Read
Omelchenko Andrii/ iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Engineers searching for a flame-retardant polycarbonate without per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) may soon have a new solution. PFAS, often called a “forever chemical,” are being banned or phased out in a number of applications, challenging makers of consumer electronics, electric vehicles, home appliances, and other products to devise new approaches for flame retardancy.

FRX Innovations, a maker of flame-retardant products, has applied for a patent for a potential PFAS-free alternative for fire retardancy in polycarbonate plastics and its alloys. According to the company, this alternative allows for completely PFAS-free formulations in polycarbonate, including elimination of the anti-drip agent PTFE.  

Demand for PFAS alternatives is growing. California just enacted its law prohibiting food packaging containing PFAS earlier this year, and it will prohibit textiles containing PFAS starting in 2025.

Last November Apple shared its commitment to phase out PFAS use. “As part of this effort, we plan to engage all of our supply chain partners to restrict PFAS from our products and manufacturing processes and to develop safer alternatives that not only maintain, but may even enhance, the performance of Apple products,” the company wrote last year.

The concern about PFAS, according to the CDC, is that they “persist in the environment and exposure in people can occur by consuming PFAS-contaminated water or food. Exposure may happen by using products that contain PFAS.” While the agency says that human health effects are “uncertain,” studies with animals “indicate that PFAS could affect reproduction, thyroid function, the immune system, and injure the liver.”

Marc Lebel, chief executive officer at FRX, told Design News that “a commonly used PFAS chemical known as KPFBS or Rimar Salt is used in many products made from polycarbonate in uses where there is a fire risk. The PFAS chemical can get into the environment, and potentially our bodies, during manufacture, during installation (if a sheet is cut for example), through abrasion during the life of a product and ultimately upon disposal – be that land-filling or incineration.

“The EPA recently proposed strict limits on some common PFAS chemicals in drinking water – including the one used as a flame retardant in polycarbonate. It is reported that many samples already exceed these. They had previously set advisory limits for surface water."

FRX’s technical team has reportedly developed formulations that are PFAS free and provide the necessary flame-retardant properties along with impact resistance and, if required, transparency. FRX’s technical leader, Dr. Xiudong Sun, shared the team’s work at the AMI Fire Retardants in Plastics event in Philadelphia, April 26-27.

“A critical part of the technology behind this invention is to be sure to be able to meet the same physical properties,” Dr. Mike Goode, FRX's chief commercial officer, told Design News. “Manufacturers set standards for the performance of the components they use, so the consumer can be confident that the performance of the final product will be to the same standard.”

FRX is confident that the flame retardancy performance of its new solutions will be the same as that of PFAS-based solutions. “There are international standards that need to be met before products can be used in various applications,” explained Goode. “Alternate flame retardants must meet those same requirements so the performance will be the same.” 

About the Author(s)

Daphne Allen

Daphne Allen is editor-in-chief of Design News. She previously served as editor-in-chief of MD+DI and of Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News and also served as an editor for Packaging Digest. Daphne has covered design, manufacturing, materials, packaging, labeling, and regulatory issues for more than 20 years. She has also presented on these topics in several webinars and conferences, most recently discussing design and engineering trends at IME West 2024 and leading an Industry ShopTalk discussion during the show on artificial intelligence.

Follow Daphne on X at @daphneallen and reach her at [email protected].

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