Together with BRUAG Fire Protection AG, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) specialists have developed a new flame retardant for wood and wood-based materials. The colourless additive, which can be easily mixed with coatings and cellulose materials, opens up new applications for wood processing companies.
Fire protection requirements are increasing worldwide - especially in public buildings and vehicle construction. This development means that more and more otherwise suitable materials such as wood can no longer be used in many buildings or means of transport and must be substituted by other products. The aim of the CTI funded research project was therefore to develop a flame retardant that increases the fire resistance of such materials without impairing the positive properties of the materials.
Colourless, non-toxic additive
The new flame retardant called AFA (Anti-Flame-Additive) meets these requirements: It is colorless and can be mixed with water-based paints or UV protective coatings and can be used not only as a coating but also as an additive in wood-based panels. In addition, it is free of bromine and boron and contains no halogenated organic compounds. It produces no toxic vapors and develops its flame-retardant effect at concentrations as low as ten percent.
AFA is based on the substance EDA-bis-TEPT developed by Empa, a flame retardant from the class of organophosphonates. It combines phosphorus and nitrogen moieties in a single molecule, which has flame-retardant effects on cellulose. The newly developed additive has already demonstrated its effectiveness in internal tests and has been protected by a patent application since 2018. Application tests are currently being carried out, for example the addition of AFA to various commercially available building materials and paint systems is being tested.
Approval procedure underway
Initial tests with major wood-based panel manufacturers have been very positive. The same applies to the world's third largest manufacturer of HPL (High Pressure Laminates). After the AFA has been introduced into the cellulose during production, flaming of the material is reliably prevented. In a further step, AFA will undergo the fire protection and approval tests required for approval.
Empa's research partner in this project is Bruag Fire Protection AG, a sister company of Bruag AG based in Güttingen, TG. As a producer of smooth and perforated weather-resistant facade panels and balcony balustrades as well as decorative elements such as room dividers, stair railings or acoustic solutions for interiors, which are mainly based on wood-based materials. The internationally active Bruag AG is directly affected by stricter fire protection guidelines.
The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa, German acronym for Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt) is an interdisciplinary Swiss research institute for applied materials sciences and technology. As part of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology Domain, it is an institution of the Swiss federation. For most of the period since its foundation in 1880, it concentrated on classical materials testing. Since the late 1980s it has developed into a modern research and development institute.