FGR holds the worldwide licence agreement with The University of Adelaide to exploit the development of a graphene-based fire retardant technology.
Fire is a devastating disaster for our society, costing lives, damaging the environment and causing economic loss. In the United States alone economic loss from fire is estimated at US$600 billion per annum, or approximately 2.1% of GDP. In Australia, the numbers are estimated at $15 billion or 1.3% of GDP.
Fire retardants currently used throughout industry rely on toxic halogen organic-based fire retardants. These create environmental problems such as soil and water pollution. Many are mutagenic and carcinogenic and have been banned in some countries. Industry is actively looking for better alternatives.
One of the main causes of damage by fire on many materials is the intumescent effect, whereby these materials swell on exposure to heat, thereby causing expansion and a destruction of the structural integrity of the material. This material starts to break down, causing the release of flammable and toxic gases. As the processes continues there is an increasing danger of structural collapse even with the use of existing retardants which may slow down the reactions. The test work with graphene has demonstrated an effective barrier to oxygen in the first instance, which is one of the three key elements needed for a fire. The restricting of a fire’s access to oxygen reduces its intensity and limits the generation of heat, thereby minimising the intumescent effect.
Having proven graphene-based retardants work well, work is continuing with the practical aspects of applying these coatings and optimising developed formulations. Importantly, as it comes down to ease of use, the graphene based retardant can be easily applied with a spray or a brush. Its flexibility makes it suitable in the protection of cellulosic, plastics and polymers. It is effective and fit for purpose in significantly smaller concentrations than existing retardants. It is not difficult to manufacture and does not require expensive capital equipment.
As well as economic benefits offered to manufacturers and end users, this new generation of fire-retardants offers better fire-protection and strong environmental benefits to society. Fires will generate less gases and pollution and the carcinogenic and mutagenic effects of existing retardants will be circumvented.
There appears to be no obvious impediments to the commercialisation of these new type of fire-retardants once government standards and ratings are satisfied. Different application and materials will be subject to varying compliance regimes depending upon whether the retardant is used for consumer products or those that have implications for building codes. Each state and each country will have its own set of rules.
A graphene based fire-retardant could become the new generation of fire resistive coatings and fire retardants. The graphene technology would provide a four fold benefit.
Benefits Offered by the New Technology
- Oxygen barrier effect and water vapour release – which would mitigate flammability
- Self extinguishing ability – so it would not be a flame propagator
- Restraining structural collapse – the mechanical strength of graphene would assist in maintaining integrity
- Toxic and flammable volatiles suppression – which would assist rescue efforts
A video demonstrating the benefit of the graphene based fire retardant can be viewed on the Company’s YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/v82SrC72R0s. The butane flame, at approximately 3,0000 C, is applied to the wood, one untreated and one treated with the graphene fire retardant. The results are dramatic.