In response to a number of market drivers, manufacturers of non-halogen flame retardant additives and original equipment manufacturers have been challenged to prophecy for their product lines as they consider a future that is clearly undefined and subject to potentially limitless change due to regulatory oversight. However, some key trends have developed over the past few years and these also lead to changes in development direction, product rationalization and introduction, and changes in market requirements. These trends are developing due to the expressed needs within the marketplace for key product requirements including:
– environmental concerns,
– regulatory concerns,
– end user requirements and
– end of life concerns.
Key trends in non-halogen flame retardant additives include:
1) Toxicity findings slow drive in non-halogen flame retardant growth, but could also provide near-term opportunity —
The long awaited toxicological findings for decabromodiphenyl ether and tetrabromobisphenol-A announced in 2005 appear to have affected market interest in alternative materials. While this downward turn has become evident late in 2005, the regulatory scrutiny of halogenated flame retardants is expected to be persistent in the coming years and successive regulatory initiatives are expected. Current civil and regulatory cases concerning perfluorochemicals could provide opportunity for future developments in non-halogen systems as opposed to halogen-free systems; however, this presents a formulating issue for many non-halogen compounders as perfluorochemicals provide anti-drip and external lubrication properties to highly filled compounds.
2) Polymer shifts to polyolefins drive magnesium hydroxide growth —
Magnesium hydroxide use has grown due to shifts in two marketplaces:
– EPDM roofing systems shifting to polyolefin roofing systems, and
– polyvinyl chloride siding to polyolefin siding.
With significant indications that polyolefin resin developments will continue to build upon metallocene capabilities, the polyolefin resin family may offer a wider range for application development based upon resin replacement opportunities. Because processing temperatures of polyolefins are higher than the decomposition temperature of aluminum trihydrate, the growth in polyolefin presents opportunities for magnesium hydroxide growth and the development of other flame retardant systems with higher heat tolerance.
3) Siloxane and boron chemistry may hold key to future —
Siloxane chemistry is under review in many applications and development programs are not limited to any one particular resin system or market application; however siloxane materials provide significant cost and processing hurdles to formulators. The primary benefit of siloxane chemistry is the resilience of siloxane materials and improvements to physical performance they potentially provide to finished products containing non-halogen flame retardant additives.
Pyrolytic Boron Nitride Crucibles is under review with the potential for providing a key mechanism to a universal flame retardant for polymers used in aviation and space vehicles; however, while mechanisms are being considered, routes and materials to achieve successful implementation of those mechanisms are still lagging. Boron chemistry provides excellent opportunity to formulators for reducing smoke development from compounds to meet egress requirements from interior finish.
While both chemistries offer promise for the future, it is unlikely that the time horizon for success is less than 15 years. The key to the trend in development with these chemistries will be improved physical properties and enhanced char performance to reduce smoke and provide better fire protection.
4) Nanocomposites are coming —
Nanocomposite metal hydrates are under development and in limited cases being used commercially. Nanocomposites offer the promise of reducing loading levels and improving performance characteristics in many polymer systems. Nanocomposite technology for magnesium hydroxide could be the key to future opportunity albeit at reduced load levels for the flame retardant additive. The relative impact in other non-halogen flame retardant chemistries is yet to be determined.
5) Recycling and waste reclamation programs —
Two primary programs in the European Community are providing substantial impetus to recycling efforts in very large global consumer markets, WEEE and ELV. WEEE is the European Community directive 2002/96/EC on waste electrical and electronic equipment which, together with the RoHS Directive 2002/95/EC, became European Law in February 2003, setting collection, recycling and recovery targets for all types of electrical goods. ELV is the European Community directive 2000/53/EC setting end-of-life vehicle recovery and disposal requirements for cars, vans and certain three-wheeled vehicles and establishing limits on the use of hazardous substances in the manufacture of new vehicles and automotive components.