Electric and Electronic Equipment
Electrical systems are estimated to be the cause of around one fifth of all fires. Electrical faults like short-circuiting and arcing release sufficient energy to ignite commonly used polymers in electronic equipment, household appliances or electrical installations. Therefore, safety requirements demand the use of flame resistant materials in proximity to live parts, connectors etc. In addition to using metals or ceramics, flame retarded polymers are often chosen, because they have excellent technical properties and are economically attractive.
Building and Construction
Fire safety is an essential element in building and constructions. National and international fire standards regulate the reaction to fire (ignition time, flame spread, smoke density, toxicity of gases) of materials used in this industry. In order to meet these fire safety requirements the use of flame retardants is often necessary especially in polymeric types of materials, e.g. in insulation, pipes and cables. The selection of the appropriate products depends mainly on the material and the required fire standard. Intumescent coatings based on PIN flame retardants ensure the stability of steel structures in case of a fire for a defined period of time (fire resistance), because steel can lose its strength at temperatures above 500 °C.
Transport vehicles like aeroplanes, ships, trains, busses and cars must provide a sufficient level of fire safety. The possibility for people to quickly evacuate the vehicle in case of fire is severely limited for aeroplanes, ships or trains, but even for cars it can be difficult in the case of an accident. Flame retardants prevent the ignition of otherwise highly flammable textile covers on seats including their upholstery fillings, curtains as well as wall panels and other structural parts. The fire safety standards for “high risk” transport systems like aeroplanes and trains also include requirements on the toxicity of smoke and combustion products.
Textiles and Furnitures
The flammability of textiles ranges from easily ignitable cotton or polyester materials to virtually non-flammable high performance textiles based on aramides (e.g. Nomex®). The ignitability depends not only on the material itself, but also on the density/thickness of the fabric and adjacent materials, e.g. when used as a upholstered furniture cover. Flame retardants can be used to limit the flammability of textiles by reacting co-monomers into synthetic polymer materials, treating the surface of the fibres or coating the finished textile with a flame retardant formulation. The desired or required durability against wear and washing is a key criterion for choosing the appropriate textile and flame retardant combination.