Flame-Retardant Bioplastic

September 4, 2008
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Nontoxic fire-retarding polymers

Plastics used for the external casing of medium-sized and larger electronic equipment, such as personal computers, require a high degree of flame retardancy. To make typical plastics flame resistant, substances with flame-retardant properties, such as halogen and phosphorous compounds, are used as additives. However, halogen compounds expel environmentally damaging toxins when burned; phosphorus compounds, commonly used as substitutes for halogen compounds, are also feared to be toxic.

After creating a flame-retardant polycarbonate resin with a silicone additive called Ekoporika, NEC developed a self-extinguishing epoxy resin compound as a molding material for electronic components such as IC packages. This compound does not require any flame-retarding additive because the resin itself forms a thermally insulating foam layer when exposed to flames.

NEC’s research has since expanded to include the development of fire-retardant polylactic acid (PLA) polymers, which are derived from corn rather than petroleum. These plastics utilize the primary flame-retarding ingredient, metal hydroxide, which is a natural component of soil, as well as other environmentally safe additives.

Contact: NEC Corporation, Tokyo, Japan.

For more information, see Transmaterial 2: A Catalog of Materials That Redefine our Physical Environment

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