Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

Novel 'Greener' Routes to Halogen-Free Flame Retardant Materials

EPA Grant Number: SU835071
Title: Novel 'Greener' Routes to Halogen-Free Flame Retardant Materials
Investigators: Nagarajan, Ramaswamy , Bouldin, Ryan , Kiratitanavit, Weeradech , Kumar, Jayant , Ravichandran, Sethumadhavan
Institution: University of Massachusetts - Lowell
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Project Period: August 15, 2011 through August 14, 2013
Project Amount: $75,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2011) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemistry , P3 Awards , Sustainability


The increased use of polymeric materials in numerous applications over the past decade has prompted a surge in the need for additives in the polymer industry. Flame retardant (FR) materials are additives that are used to control or reduce/eliminate the risk of fire in flammable polymers. Currently, some of most commonly used FR additives are based on halogenated compounds. Halogenated FR are inexpensive, effective in reducing the flammability of products and do not adversely affect the processability of polymers. However they are toxic and are slowly released from the polymeric matrix into the environment, making their way up the food chain and eventually accumulating in humans. Some halogenated FRs are known to cause damage to immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems. Their use has been regulated banned/regulated in Europe and in certain states in the U.S. There is a tremendous need for developing alternative FR materials, preferably from renewable sources, using non-toxic approaches. This research project will use methodologies that are in accordance to the 12 principles of green chemistry and benefit the three pillars of sustainability – people, prosperity and planet. In phase I, we were able to successfully synthesize polyphenolic FR based on cardanol (renewable resource) using benign routes. The polyphenols were thermally characterized and exhibited good FR properties (low heat release capacities and good char forming capability).


The primary objective for Phase II is to better understand the flame retardant behavior of polyphenols synthesized in Phase I, improve their performance and scale-up the synthesis to larger volumes. The polyphenols will also be incorporated into commercial plastics and their FR behavior will be evaluated.


  • Environmentally benign mineral additives like nanoclays will be incorporated in the polyphenols to bolster FR efficacy.
  • The mechanism of action of the polyphenol based FR materials will be evaluated using combination of TGA and FTIR.
  • The biocatalytic reactions for the synthesis of FR polyphenols will be scaled up. Polyphenol based FRs with be blended with commodity plastics. The flammability of these blends will be evaluated
  • The efficacy of polyphenol based FR will be compared to commercially used halogenated FR in collaboration with our industrial partners.

Expected Results:

  • Establish an environmentally friendly protocol for the synthesis of polyphenol and polyphenol-nanoclay based FR with good flame retardant characteristics
  • Understand the mechanism of action by analyzing the combustion/degradation products of polyphenols FR and blends with polymers using TGA-FTIR. Evaluate char yields and heat release capacities using PCFC
  • Evaluate efficacy of FR polyphenols and in ‘real world applications’

Supplemental Keywords:

Enzymatic polymerization, biocatalytic, non-halogenated flame-retardants, renewable feedstocks, green chemistry, biomimetic catalyst, cardanol, sustainable environment, peroxidase, polyphenol-nanoclay, green chemistry, environment friendly chemical synthesis, alternative materials, pollution prevention, technology for sustainable environment,