17 Mar Meet the Experts: Dr. Horrocks on biodegradable bromine and making flame retardants more sustainable
In this edition of Meet the Experts, Nuno Bacharel, Communications Manager at BSEF, speaks to Dr. Richard Horrocks, a global expert on flame retardants and their use in heat resistant fibres and textiles.
Dr. Horrocks talks about the unique challenges involved in making textiles, in particular furniture fabrics, fire resistant, given that different fibres incorporated in complex blends burn in different ways and considering the need to tackle the flammability of foams used as filling for furniture. BFR-based backcoatings offer a very efficient solution to these challenges since they can be used on all commercial fabrics, at a reasonable cost and keeping high performance standards. ‘No effective replacement for BFRs for furnishing fabrics have been found in the last 20 years or so’, he adds.
Compared to most phosphorus- and nitrogen-containing FRs, BFRs-based backcoatings are more robust and effectively resist smouldering to flaming transitions (StF) or open flame threats. Moreover, they are better at preventing the front fabric face igniting when exposed to a flame and last longer after washing.
Dr. Horrocks also claims that brominated flame retardants could be part of a more environmentally sustainable and safe future, if we just rethink the design of these chemicals making them mimic naturally occurring brominated organic compounds. He recalls our interview with Dr. Gribble, previously featured in the Let’s Talk Bromine newsletter, asserting that bromine is one of the elements essential for life. Sustainable BFR innovations could be based on natural polybrominated structures or BioBFRs could be developed in conjunction with non-toxic binders, smoke suppressing synergists such as the zinc stannates or zinc tungstate, carefully tailored for given polymeric and textile substrates.
Dr. Horrocks finally highlights that restricting the use of BFRs is not a solution, instead developing biodegradable variants may help addressing environmental pressures. By ensuring that current BFRs have the necessary metabolizable functional groups attached and by achieving a better understanding of biodegradability mechanisms existing in nature, it will be possible in the future to make these grades available at a full commercial scale.
Watch our interview with Dr. Gribble: