Flame retardants

07/03/2017

Every day in Europe there are about 12 fire victims and 120 people severely injured. The economic loss, which runs to several billion euros each year, must not be ignored either. For these reasons, fire protection, fire-proof products and thus, also flame retardants (FRs) play an important role in industry.

Flame retardants (also named fire retardants) are compounds that are added to finished materials such as plastics, paper, wood or textiles, or are used as surface finishes and coatings on such materials that inhibit, suppress, or delay the production of flames to prevent the spread of fire.

Flame retardants cannot stop a fire from spreading altogether or extinguish a fire once it has taken hold. The mechanism of a flame retardant depends on the type of its compound.
Both chemical and physical processes play a role here:

the FR forms a protective surface layer on the burning product;
the FR decomposes under energy usage to release water;
the FR interferes with the chain reaction of radicals in the gas flame phase of the combustion process;
intumescent FR systems: in a fire, the intumescent coating expands to form a thick, non-flammable layer of bubbles offering good insulation protection to the coated material.