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