The Universal Selection Source: Polymer Additives

Selection Guide

Techno Brief: Flame Retardants

This techno brief incorporates almost every detail about the world of flame retardants used with polymers. Here you will find about the different flame retardant technologies, their mode of action, chemical description, benefits, limitations, compatibilities with different polymers and the end market applications.

Fire Dynamics

The goals for fire retardant are universal and can be simply stated in the following items:
  1. Prevent the fire or retard its growth and spread i.e. the flash over:
    • Control fire properties of combustible items,
    • Provide for suppression of the fire.


  2. Flash over time vs fire retardant use
    Figure 1: Flash over time vs fire retardant use


    Under the conditions of fire the use of the flame retardant gives a significant increase in the escape time available. 

  3. Protect occupant from the fire effects:
    • Provide timely notification of the emergency,
    • Protect escape routes,
    • Provide areas of refuge where necessary and possible.


  4. Smoke release vs fire spread
    Figure 2: Smoke release vs fire spread


    The use of fire retardant reduces the flame spread and so the rate at witch the smoke develops. Less smoke production gives an increase in the escape time available. 

  5. Minimize the impact of fire:
    • Provide separation by tenant, occupancy, or maximum area.
    • Maintain the structural integrity of property,
    • Provide for continued operation of shared properties.


  6. Example of functionalities that have to be maintained during the first steps of a fire
    Figure 3: example of functionalities that have to be maintained during the first steps of a fire


    The use of fire retardant reduces the flame spread and so the rate at witch the smoke develops. Less smoke production gives an increase in the escape time available. 

  7. Support fire service operations:
    • Provide for identification of fire location,
    • Provide reliable communication with areas of refuge,
    • Provide for fire department access, control, communication, and selection.

To prevent the fire or retard its growth and spread, material and product performance testing is used to set limits on the fire properties of items which represent the major fuels in the system. The majority of fire safety requirements consist of material fire performance test criteria to retard its growth and spread. Based on test methods that evaluate fire properties of individual materials, the test methods are generally based on the measurement of the flame-spread speed. 

Table 1: Brief overview of the fire retardant and fire resistant characteristics

  FR Fire Retardant FRT Fire Resistant
 WHY To save lives
 HOW Delaying the fire growth Limiting the physic progression of fire from one to another area
 MEANS Decreasing the fire kinetic Using fireproof barriers to compartment the fire areas
 WHEN At the early stage of fire delaying the flash over phenomenon During fire from the early to the post flashover periods
 What is assessed The reaction to fire in term of contribution to fire:
- nil
- low
- medium
- high
The resistance to fire in term of maintaining certain functionalities:
- Smoke and heat Insulation
- Integrity
- Load bearing
 Test scenario To submit a sample to a heat flux
To ignite the gaseous decomposition products
To follow the fire development
To submit the sample to an increasing heat flux
To follow the functionality evolution during the exposure time
 Key parameters Heat release
Dripping
Flame spread
Smoke opacity
Smoke Toxicity
Time failure of functionality studied:
- Smoke Insulation
- Heat Insulation
- Integrity
- Load bearing

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