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News Flash

New ambipolar polymer beats others: reports US researchers

Scientists from IBM and Stanford University are developing new plastics recycling process

Plastrec, a Quebec recycler unveils recycled PET production combining two plastics technologies

Carbon3D, a Canadian company unveils a breakthrough technology for layerless 3D printing

US researchers develop shape memory polymer nanocomposites exhibiting fast actuation speed

Current status in graphene based polymer nanocomposites – a review

MIT researchers show how to draw Polyethylene as nanofibers and get a very high thermal conductivity

Polymers help Addidas to launch lightest soccer boots and 2010 FIFA World cup match ball never seen before in the field

Bio-succinic acid is becoming new green platform chemical for plastics

Can polycarbonate be replaced with another polymer? Click chemistry might provide the answer!

Current trends and future prospects for flame retardants in polymeric materials

Researchers review how to characterize polymer nanocomposites by different microscopicy techniques

Plastics help design non-shatter pint glass to prevent pub attacks

Rutgers Univ researchers moves plastic electronics with graphene based PS thin films

Prof. Alan Heegers group demonstrated the potential of plastics solar cells

Siver nanowire electrodes for flexible electronics

McMaster university (Canada) researchers developed flexible solar cell technology

Korean scientists provide a different twist to the “Smart Window” technology

Can polymer reinforced aerogel make a space mission? University of Akron researchers think so!

Cima NanoTech flexes mussels with its non-Indium Tin Oxide, high performance transparent conductors

Researchers show stretchy battery for flexible and stretchable electronics

Self-healing plastics healing like human skin

Polymer helps to designing higher capacity Li-ion battery

Nanoparticle coating prevents ice build up

A team of researchers demonstrate plastics and graphene can work together to make touch screen device a reality

ZogglesTM earns Invention of the year 2010 award and keeps the fog away

Something old... Something new.... produces an interesting marriage

Are you interested in self-healing polymers – must read reviews

MIT researchers develop first Solar Thermal Fuel storage platform in solid-state

Can you “Cool Your Roof” - reports researchers from Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing

If you follow plastics electronics - follow Unidym’s innovative product lines

A novel technique to manufacture continuous twisted yarn from aligned PAN nanofibers

Caltech researchers show through telechelic polymers how to produce a safer and a cleaner fuel

Kyoto researchers are upbeat about cellulose nanofibers based composites for auto parts

Researchers gather to discuss advances in organic photovoltaics (OPV)

For the first time, IBM researchers showed 3D molecular structure could be observed

Stratasys touts World’s first color multi-material 3D printer for rubber & plastics products

IKV researchers report thermoplastic/metal hybrid materials for Direct manufacturing electronic part

MIT researchers develop first Solar Thermal Fuel storage platform in solid-state

Austrian scientists claim to be the first to have developed an image sensor that is fully transparent

Battelle researchers are improving PLA for injection molding applications

Advanced nanocomposite membrane technology of NanoH2O turns it to a Global clean technology company

USA researchers develop all-polymer multilayer coating to retard fire and to suppress smoke

Singapore researchers touts corn starch can help solve body armour and protective sports padding

Are you an injection moulder, you may want to read the ultimate in mould cooling article

Non-toxic, liquid bandage from Chesson Labs of Durham, NC is ready for the healthcare market

Practical Devices provide useful power from the body

Yale scientists develop high performance thin film composite membrane

Work of North Carolina State Univ. researchers shows how to remove radioactive elements from drinking water

Harvard Univ researchers show how soft robotics could navigate a difficult obstacle

How Collagen nanofibers could find use in Tissue Engineering

In Milan, art and science get together to showcase Vegetal, weather resistant designer chair

Will your windows generate power one day?

Can polymer reinforced aerogel make a space mission? University of Akron researchers think so!

Japanese researchers are developing stereo-block type PLAs for high performance materials

Bayer uses PC film Makrofol? for it's new Innosec Fusion? technology to stop counterfeiting

Teijin Techno Products claims to be world’s first mass producer of aramid nanofibers

Harvard University researchers design stretchable, transparent ionic conductors

Innovations in design come from plastics to win several 2009 International Design Excellence Awards

It is time to make “Perfect Plastic” reports UK researchers

Wax could be green too – touts GreenMantra Technolgies!

German researchers unveiled a green approach to electrospinning technique for making biodegradable nanofibres

NIST develops greener solution to challenge commercial fire retardants

Researchers develop unique printable thin film supercapacitor using SWCNT

Can you 3D print yourself? TwinKinds of Germany shows just that!

Norner touts major research project on polymers based on carbon dioxide

A review on polymer/bioactive glass nanocomposites provides current trends in polymer research

Austrian researcher reports new opportunities from Silicon oxide Nanofilms

Sabic Innovative Plastics unveils its newly developed a clear flame retardant Polycarbonate copolymer

Oil-SAP, a novel development to clean-up oil spill & recovery from Penn State University, USA

UCLA scientists showed how simple it could be to make conducting polymer thin films

Can Gas Jet process challenge electrospinning in producing polymeric nanofibers?

Canadian researchers claim world’s most efficient “inverted” OPV solar cells

Stanford researchers use cheap plastics film to make safe lithium batteries

UC Berkley researchers have developed paper thin e-skin that responds to touch

Work of North Carolina State Univ. researchers shows how to remove radioactive elements from drinking water

Scientists from Sweden and USA showed electronics can truly be organic or say truly be plastics

Stanford university researchers detect mercury ions in sea water using organic polymer transistor sensor

Binder free multilayer graphene based polymer composite for high performance supercapacitor electrodes

Alberta scientists help to make Canada’s first bio-composite based electric vehicle body design

World’s first all-plastic LED lamp comes from Japan

Plastic Logic sees mass production of flexible display in 2008

MIT team aims to develop application specific surgical adhesives to seal tissues

Brazilian scientists are actively pursuing bioplastics research and innovation

James Cropper Speciality Paper touts recycling of disposable coffee cups

AMI unveils the North American Bioplastics technology agenda

3D systems introduces non-halogenated flame retardant for aircraft applications

Green Composites - all you wanted to know about

Chinese researchers made a bendy polymer that could separate aromatics hydrocarbons from aliphatic

University of Texas at Austin researchers show use of polymer membranes for fracking in shale gas

Arkema unveils a range of "green" polymers for its textile market

Using biodegradable polymer, University of Basque country researcher report on bone regeneration

How plastics helping revolutionize stretchable electronics applications – a review, not to be missed!

US and South Korean researchers develop a printing technique to make high performance CNT transistors

Rice Univ (USA) researchers grew high quality graphene from polystyrene, cookies, grass, cockroach leg & dog feces

Polymer bank notes on the rise to avoid counterfeit paper currencies

Princeton university researchers embedded piezoelectric material onto polymer as energy harvester

GM recycles oil soaked booms from the Gulf of Mexico for its Chevrolet Volt under hood parts

Univ of Texas @ Austin scientists reported method to produce a large scale reduced graphene oxide

French scientists tout first use of nano-structured assemblies that could revolutionize dentistry

Can you “Cool Your Roof” - reports researchers from Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing

Polymers can be used to package insulin into a pill for diabetes treatment reports Indian scientists

How computer modelling & 3D printing create fracture resistant composites – reports Stratasys and MIT researchers

Electric Glue: Another twist to make controlled polymer-surface adhesion

A new microcellular injection molding process for polycarbonate using water

USA researchers report polymeric blood-resistant surgical glue that can repair minimally invasive heart defects

Japanese scientists report a unique, smart and self-healing polymer nanocomposite hydrogels

Block copolymers could create hard disks with 10 tera-bit-per-Square-inch:Researchers predict

Mannigton converts large stickers from 2010 winter games into commercial flooring

Strain Paint: an alternative to strain gauges

How blood can clot to heal a wound - Science reports

Braskem S.A. is leading the way to manufacture biobased polyethylene using catalytic dehydration

Swedish researchers show highest reported charge capacities for all polymer paper-based battery

Umass, Amherst researchers find ways to hold 300 kilograms of weight using sticky tape

Stanford Univ researchers make Jell-O-like conducting polymer hydrogels

Current Trends in Flame Retardants for Thermoplastics - Part III

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fr_3  In this third article about thermoplastics Flame Retardant (FR) trends, we will discuss unmet flame retardant needs. Like any other needs, opportunities for new flame retardants should be validated against commercial interests and regulatory requirements before resources are spent on meeting them.  With that caveat in mind, the discussion below reflects what this author believes to be some of the key problems to be resolved in the near future.  The article describes thermoplastic uses that require either unusual processing conditions or applications that result in the need for significant changes in the performance of flame retardant materials. The resulting changes in design may greatly shake up the thermoplastic flame retardant material market.

Flame Retardants for Additive Manufacturing of Plastics

In the past year, a brand new technology has opened up new markets, novel applications, and the potential to bring plastic goods manufacture to a much wider range of companies. The technology causing this explosive change is known as additive manufacturing or 3D printing1

Additive manufacturing has the potential to make plastic custom-made parts, designs, and shapes readily available similar in many ways to how the printing press made the written word much more available. While 3D printing technology has been around for many years, it has really taken off in the past year as can be seen from the recent coverage in the Economist2,3,  and the recent announcement that Staples will print parts for the customers at their stores4.

So how does flame retardancy fit into all of this?   The answer can be found by examining the application of the printed parts. More specifically by examining the use of the printed parts and any fire risk associated with those applications.   If you are just printing a toy or a neat shape that will be used as a model, then any plastic compatible with the 3D printing process is acceptable.  But if you’re making a custom case for an electronic application or a custom part then there may have a fire risk associated with it.   If there is a chance of an electrical short circuit near a plastic part, flame retardancy may be required, and this need may not be met with common thermoplastics used for 3D printing (typically HIPS or ABS).
 
One approach that might be considered is printing with low flammability plastics (such as thermoplastic polyetherimide) but to date, there have been very few flame retardant materials designed and optimized for 3D printing. 

With the probable explosion of plastic use in additive manufacturing processes, this need is clearly an unmet one, and could become a problem if additive manufacturing starts producing parts and goods inserted into applications without fire safety needs.  Therefore, it makes sense that flame retardant thermoplastics optimized and tailored for 3D printing processes should be studied sooner rather than later.  Very likely this will be met via small custom formulations at first, but this could be a growth area for flame retardant plastics. 

Automotive Plastics

The fire safety standard that regulates plastics for automotive applications is Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard # 302 (FMVSS 302) This is a simple horizontal burn flame spread test.  that was created in the 1970s to simulate cigarette ignition and has not been significantly changed since its creation. At this time a typical car would have a maximum of 30 kg of plastic throughout the entire vehicle, all of which would have had to pass this simple test.  The use of plastic to mitigate corrosion/rust damage and improve fuel efficiency (light-weight materials – better miles per gallon performance) has resulted in an increase in the amount of plastics in today’s cars to 150 kg or more. This increased level of plastic can significant add to fire risk. A post-crash fire is just one accidental ignition situation in which the ignition source may well be more intense than that provided by a cigarette, and any plastic needs to be flame-retarded to a level that allows enough time to escape from the burning vehicle5.
 
Despite several calls to change the automotive fire standard over the past few years, there have been only minor changes.  So automotive plastic fire safety is an unmet need, but until a new fire safety standard is decided upon, it is hard to know what type of flame retardant performance will be required.  Today, most plastics with no additional flame retardant at all will pass the FVMSS 302 test.  The test of tomorrow will be based upon a fire risk scenario which is to be determined.  If we look at the fire losses for automobiles today, it appears that there may not be an immediate problem (see figures below), but the situation requires vigilance in case the fire losses begin to increase in the near future.

fr_figure_3_1   fr-figure_3-2

Figure 3-1:  Car loss fire statistics from NFPA6

This situation is further complicated because automobile fire risks are expected to change with new propulsion technology. The fire risk from a tank of gasoline igniting post-crash is very different than the fire risk associated with an electric car, in which electrical short circuit or battery explosion may be the issue.  The risk of battery explosion from lithium ion batteries, however, may be resolved if lithium-air batteries are commercialised in the coming decade. Until then, lithium ion batteries must be designed with care to avoid any possible fire hazards.

In January of 2013, a fire occurred on board a Boeing 787s equipped with lithium ion batteries.  While the exact causes have not been positively identified yet, extensive fire testing and safety testing was needed before the planes were allowed to fly again7.   Depending upon the size and energy density of the batteries, this fire risk scenario could show up in more often as this technology is used in more applications,.  Or, as these batters are used more widely, the engineering gets better at mitigating the fire risk introduced by this battery technology, Alternatively the risk could be removed completely if lithium-air replaces lithium-ion technology.
 
Cars powered with natural gas or hydrogen have more of an explosion hazard than fire hazard, which is different from fuel cells that introduce both flammable fuel and explosion risks.  All of this points to a significant unmet need for fire safe materials in automobiles. Until the fire risks can be identified and regulators can design relevant tests, it will be hard to see how this need will be met in the future.

Flame Retardants Compatible with Recycling & Waste-To-Energy Processes

The final need we will look at in this article is the development of flame retardant plastics compatible with recycling and waste-to-energy processes. 

In North America plastics are either reground, recycled or sent to landfill at the end of life of a product. In Europe, waste that cannot be recycled is incinerated with other municipal solid waste because of a the lack of landfill space. Incineration is a well-established process established in the 1970s. It was here that dioxins were identified from plastic waste and this led to the scrutiny of brominated diphenyl ethers that has dominated flame retardant/environmental science over the past four decades.  Many European countries now have clean incinerator technology that can capture and destroy all dioxins before they get into the environment, so the problem has been solved due to deselection of some flame retardants and adoption of new incineration technology.

Even in North America, putting plastic waste into landfill is not a sustainable solution. In some cases, the plastic is of more value if it is recycled rather than if it was burnt in an incinerator for possible energy capture.

This means that there is an unmet need for plastics which can be easily recycled in addition to having value in waste-to-energy processes such as incineration and gasification. For flame retardant thermoplastics, the unmet need is for flame retardant additives compatible with the recycling process and/or energy recovery methods. Some flame retardant products are more compatible with recycling than others.  Halogenated flame retardant chemistry has shown itself to work well with recycling (provided the additives do not bloom out over time) while some phosphate based flame retardants are not as suitable for recycling, owing to hydrolysis of the organophosphate over time9.   There has been little work to study how waste plastics (including those with flame retardants) behave in waste-to-energy processes10  so there is still much to study. There is truly a strong need to give more attention to sustainability of thermoplastics in the coming decade. This should be accomplished through lifecycle analysis in which flame retardancy is considered as part of the “cradle-to-grave” design. 

Conclusions:

Flame retardant material design, and indeed fire safety in general, is a field of science, that is advanced as the result of reaction to problems.  In general, flame retardants are developed in response to new or existing fire risks.  The needs listed in this article are a combination of proactive (flame retardants for additive manufacturing) and reactive (automotive, flame retardants designed for sustainable plastic use) and may not be important if a bigger fire risk is discovered in the near future.  Proactive flame retardancy of plastics is really only possible if one considers material flammability at the start of product design and extensive market and application research is carried out early in the project.  Even then, one cannot predict the future, which depends on how consumers may use or abuse products, nor how technology may be applied in ways that create unexpected fire risk scenarios.  So at best the scientist can look to literature reports, conference presentations, and trends seen by experts to help them plan for the future.  They should accept that even with this information, they will need to vigilant and react to fire events, as these will have an important impact on the actions that they will need to take.  It is hoped that this three part guide on flame retardants for plastics will be helpful to material scientists so they can be aware of the trends in flame retardant technology from a regulatory perspective (which drives flame retardant use), and from a technological perspective (what new technologies may solve today’s and tomorrow’s problems).

Again, readers are encouraged to read more on flame retardant technology to put the trends outlined in these articles into perspective for their needs, as there is no universal solution to flame retardancy of plastics.  What may affect one group of polymers in one market may have no effect on that same group of polymers in another market.  Still, the trends outlined in these articles do reflect current factors affecting flame retardant technology and should serve as a good starting point for the material scientist tasked with developing flame retardant materials. 

 

Dr. Morgan, the author of these three articles can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


References

1.  A summary of this technology and its capabilities can be found in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Additive_manufacturing (accessed 1 Apr, 2013).
2.  http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2012/11/additive-manufacturing (accessed 1 Apr, 2013)
3.  http://www.economist.com/node/21552901 (accessed 1 Apr, 2013)
4.  http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/30/tech/innovation/staples-3-d-printing/index.html (accessed 12 Apr, 2013).
5.  “Human survivability in motor vehicle fires” Digges, K. H.; Gann, R. G.; Grayson, S. J.; Hirschler, M. M.; Lyon, R. E.; Purser, D. A.; Quintiere, J. G.; Stephenson, R. R.; Tewarson, A. Fire and Materials 2008, 32, 249-258. 
6. http://www.nfpa.org/itemDetail.asp?categoryID=953&itemID=29658&URL=Research/Fire%20statistics/The%20U.S.%20fire%20problem&cookie_test=1 (accessed 12 Apr, 2013).
7.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_787_Dreamliner_battery_problems (accessed 28 April 2013)
8.  (a) “Processing and properties of engineering plastics recycled from waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)” Tarantili, P.A.; Mitsakaki, A.N.; Petoussi, M.A. Polym. Degrad. Stab. 2010, 95, 405 – 410 (b) “Waste electrical and electronic equipment plastics with brominated flame retardants – from legislation to separate treatment – thermal processes” Tange, L.; Drohmann, D. Polym. Degrad. Stab. 2005, 88, 35-40, 
9.   “Artificial Weathering and Recycling Effect on Intumescent Polypropylene-based Blends” Almeras, X.; Le Bras, M.; Hornsby, P.; Bourbigot, S.; Marosi, Gy.; Anna, P.; Delobel, R. J. Fire Sci. 2004, 22, 143-161. 
10.  (a) “Controlled pyrolysis of polyethylene/polypropylene/polystyrene mixed plastics with high impact polystyrene containing flame retardant:  Effect of decabromo diphenylethane” Bhaskar, T.; Hall, W. J.; Mitan, N. M. M.; Muto, A.; Williams, P. T.; Sakata, Y. Polym. Degrad. Stab. 2007, 92, 211-221.  (b) "Kinetic analysis of thermal degradation of recycled polycarbonate/acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene mixtures from waste electric and electronic equipment" Balart, R.; Sanchez, L.; Lopez, J.; Jimenez, A. Polym. Degrad. Stab. 2010, 91, 527-534.  (c) “Chemical Recycling of Polymers from Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment” Achilias, D. S.; Antonakous, E. V.; Koustsokosta, E.; Lappas, A. A. J. App. Polym. Sci. 2009, 114, 212-221.