Robust, Nontoxic, and Environmentally Friendly Replacements for PentaBDE, OctaBDE, and Other Halogenated Fire Retardants

EPA Contract Number: EPD05020
Title: Robust, Nontoxic, and Environmentally Friendly Replacements for PentaBDE, OctaBDE, and Other Halogenated Fire Retardants
Investigators: Bunnell, H. Dean
Small Business: Thermolose Cellulose Products, Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2005 through August 31, 2005
Project Amount: $69,737
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , Hazardous Waste/Remediation , SBIR - Waste


There is an immediate and pressing need to find nontoxic and environmentally friendly replacements for toxic flame retardants such as pentabromodiphenyl ether (pentaBDE), octabromodiphenyl ether (octaBDE), and other halogenated and toxic products. The objective of this research project is to introduce and demonstrate the robust performance and feasibility of a family of unique, nontoxic, and environmentally friendly “phosphorated” cellulosic polymer fire retardants (FRs) produced by Thermolose Cellulose Products, Inc.

Utilization of these unique and patented polymer structures, trademarked under the name Thermolose™, provides robust and nontoxic alternatives to pentaBDE and octaBDE, as well as other halogenated and toxic fire retardants. Initial laboratory tests indicate that Thermolose™ polymers: (1) eliminate the need for flame retardants such as pentaBDE and octaBDE, while meeting or exceeding fire safety requirements; (2) show significant potential to replace pentaBDE in furniture foams; (3) show significant potential to replace octaBDE in plastics for personal computers and small appliances; and (4) have significant potential to replace brominated FRs in wood, metal, and other building material applications.

Thermolose™ polymers are nontoxic, contain no forms of bromine or halogens, and are easily recycled. These polymers can be used as a coating, mixed into existing products, and integrated into existing products or systems at the molecular level. Thermolose™ polymers have demonstrated the following properties: (1) robust fire-retardant properties (including very aggressive limiting of fire spread and fire growth, high thermal impedance, low/no toxicity, minimal/no volatile organic compound generation, minimal/no generation of toxic combustion byproducts, and formation of mechanically strong char layers/fire barriers); (2) environmentally friendly in all respects; (3) cost-effectiveness; (4) light weight; (5) thermal and acoustical insulation properties; (6) easy to use/apply; and (7) low maintenance and easy to repair.

Thermolose™ and Thermolose™ hybrid polymers (both interspecies and intraspecies) utilize cellulose to provide mechanically strong crosslinked polymer structures that exhibit high resistance to heat and flame exposure. When exposed to heat or direct flame, Thermolose™ polymers will not sustain a flame and will form a highly mechanically stable char layer that increases the thermal impedance polymer film and provides further structural protection against fire and heat damage. Initial laboratory tests show robust performance at temperatures above 2,000°F. These polymers can be used as stand-alone products or be utilized with, on, or in wood, metal, various plastics, textiles, fibers, and composite structures.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, flame retardants, pentabromodiphenyl ether, pentaBDE, octabromodiphenyl ether, octaBDE, Thermolose™ polymers, toxic products, volatile organic compounds, phosphorated cellulose polymer, fire safety, furniture foams, brominated fire retardants, EPA, RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, TREATMENT/CONTROL, POLLUTANTS/TOXICS, Sustainable Industry/Business, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Chemicals, Technology, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Chemicals Management, Environmental Engineering, PentaBDE alternative, clean technologies, environmentally conscious manufacturing, green design, VOC removal, alternative materials, alternative flame retardant, hybrid polymers, pollution prevention, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), OctaBDE alternative

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report