Firefighting – The Lab Version
Flame retardants accompany us in everyday life – in everything from insulation and construction materials to electric appliances and transportation.
What’s common to smart TVs, textiles and a train cabin? All of them are usually protected from a danger we don’t often like to think about — fire. The need for this protection stems from the fact that we are surrounded by products, accessories and building ingredients that are made of highly flammable materials, mostly plastics and polymers. This protection is achieved by using flame retardants that are embedded in these and other products. In case of a fire, flame retardants react with the burning material and its surrounding oxygen and create an effective defensive wall that prevents the fire from spreading.
It may come as a surprise to learn that a large portion of flame-retardant materials in daily use are produced by ICL. The company produces a line of flame retardants at its Neot Hovav site in Israel, the largest of its kind in the world, as well as in sites in China, the Netherlands, Germany and the U.S.
In our daily lives, we encounter these materials constantly, without being aware of their existence. They are used in numerous industries including construction and infrastructure, textiles, communication and electronics, home appliances- like TVs and computer screens, as well as in the world of transportation — in trains, aircraft, trucks, cars and ships.
As their name suggests, flame retardants significantly delay the time which passes before the development of a full-blown, life-endangering blaze. This is the basis on which modern research continues to develop and bring about the creation of new and better-quality products in the field. Fire disasters that take place from time to time around the world only prove the need for meticulous regulations regarding the use of flame retardants. One such example is the fire that broke out in the Grenfell Tower in London, England, which was caused by a short circuit in a refrigerator on one of the floors of the building. The fire’s tragic outcome has driven British regulators to reexamine the standards in the field of fire safety for home appliances, insulated facades and flame spread prevention in high buildings.
The need to provide an effective solution for the rapid technological developments in the fields of communication and transportation is another new challenge. The rising number of communication systems — smart houses, the Internet of Things, information and entertainment systems in vehicles — as well as the constant minimization of devices such as mobile phones and the move to electric or hybrid transportation at much higher electrical voltages, all require more effective, reliable and competitive solutions to reduce fire hazards.
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How does ICL fit into this industry? Marc Leifer, Global Technical Support Manager at ICL’s Flame Retardants, Industrial Products Division, explains that ICL’s innovations in the field of flame retardants aim to provide solutions for all the trends. “ICL has products and solutions to improve flame retardation in home products and critical implementations. These solutions are based on combinations of different kinds of flame retardants. One such example is in the field of communication and electronics, where ICL is launching a new product that provides a solution for improving the electric qualities of the latest generation of printed circuit boards.”
In the past few years, ICL has been working on developing new molecules that would replace ones that have been taken out of use over the years. Leifer promises that new products are already on the way in the company’s research and development departments to ensure safer and more comfortable lives for us all.