Prior to the COVID-19 impact, the global Flame Retardant market at 2019 was approximately at USD 7.0 billion, with a predicted increase that reaches to USD 7.2 billion in 2020. As for Flame Retardant Chemicals, the market net worth has gained a 50% increase throughout the past 9 years, rising from 2012 with only USD 5.1 billion.
Within market, construction and hospitality industries still accounts for the majority demand on flame retardants. Yet in recent years, the use of retardants in electronics and electrical, particularly in Asia, has demonstrated a rapid growth in demand. In observation, Asia-Pacific region has shown dominance in the flame retardant market, with an estimated share of 50.7% in 2019. Such observation was an attribute in favouring government’s regulation that aims to prevent fire hazards.
Under evaluation, application of epoxy resins was confirmed as the most commonly used substance, with a revenue share of 24.1% in 2019. The proportion of substance use was identified mainly in applications for composite materials, coatings, and adhesives used in the building and construction industries.
Despite disruption from the pandemic, Flame Retardant Chemicals in US are expected to reach 2.8 million metric tons in 2020. Thus leading to similar growth in the global Flame Retardant market, reaching at an annual rate of 3.6% increase within 2020 to 2027, with the prediction of achieving market expansion up to USD 9.3 billion by 2027.
Due to COVID-19, the market growth rate is expected to decline in 2020. Despite so, the decline is likely to stop once the economies and industries resumes their operations after lockdowns, given that basic demands will still persist even if the economics growth is affected. In addition, Brominated flame retardant would remain as the majority in the market.
However, due to the environmentally disruptive nature of halogen compounds and growing concerns of bioaccumulation and environment contaminations, laws concerning the environment have been formed to reduce the use of these products. These information demonstrated the potential of our environmental friendly flame retardant product.
Therefore, we are currently in plan to raise funding for our project. We hope that our product can reach the standard in Macau and provide the market a more environmentally-friended alternative of fire retardant. Since our product focus on the use especially for Macau local companies, we intend to accomplish further flame test and try to have practical test on some furniture in order to be in line with government policies. Therefore, most of the funding will be put in research, and we are planning to profit through licensing our future product's patent. Since our project focus on fabrics material and wood furniture - common household material and frequently used in hotel industry, and have designed different biobricks, we will complete full investigation of fire retardancy testing to all common fabrics materials to have a detail profile of our proposed flame retardant product.
Toxicity & allergy tests
In terms of the safety aspects of our project, there is still considerable room for future work as no toxicity test or allergy test have been conducted on our product due to various limitations. However, since most of the subparts involved in the protein are extracted from non-toxic precursors, we predict that our fire retardant protein is also environmentally friendly. In future, we hope to complete a toxicity and allergy test of our product in order to verify its safety.
Since the idea of our project was inspired by the Grenfell Tower fire in the UK 3 years ago, we are considering to further apply our product into buildings exterior coating, besides usage on daily products such as fabric or wood, as one of our team's long term goal. By applying our fire retardant on exterior walls of public buildings, we hope to discover some potential problems that we have not noticed before which are crucial for the future improvement of our products. Our more short-term goal is to investigate the possibility to increase 'odor Eliminator' like function to our flame retardant product, e.g. protein/chemical mixture and manufacture household use flame retardant spray.
Future customers and collaboration
In future, we are trying to contact the furniture company---IKEA to imply our tests. However, we still consider efficiency as the most vital part of our project, we hope that through further experiments and adjustments can improve our final product. We understand, although our product might have a high cost compared with other fire retardants, our product can provide a more environmental-friendly and sustainable way to prevent fire.
Public education about fire prevention is fundamental for ameliorating casualties and properties damage caused by fire. As a IGEM team having the target of saving people's lives from fire, we have the responsibility to educate the public about preventing home fire and wildfire. In future, we are hoping to organize regular lectures to draw people's attention to precautions of fire.
Flame retardant anti-fire mechanism and standard testing
As discuss in the background page, flame retardant would display different anti-fire mechanism based on their chemical property. In the case of achieving flame retardancy coating in fabric, it is usually through applying:
• Char – Formed from wool that naturally consists flame retardant. On establishment of char (a layer of charcoal) on surface, it enables blockage of flame at a specific intensity, while prevents fire spreading to the foam underneath.
• Gas – Through the release of additive flame retardant chemicals when burnt, it enables the act to smothering and eventually extinguish the flame induced.
• Melt – In some cases, materials may demonstrate a melting behaviour that results in liquid formation and flows away from flame. As such, the withdrawal may result in nothing to ignite (However, under specific situations flaming droplets are produced, resulting in potentially comprised safety).
As flammability test varies internationally, differed passing standards are expected that may result in one substance particularly suitable for a specific testing approach. For example, the UK standards (Medium Hazard) favours the approach of developing barrier with char formation, whereas for certain European standards (French M1, German B1), its toward favouring the melt away method. Thus demonstrates a vastly varied approaches to flammability performances of fabrics that typically consist the same end use. Since such Macau local standard was legislated under the former Portugal-Macanese government, some of the requirement is SUGGESTED to follow the British Standard 476-1971; or the Portuguese NP standard. In the background of this, one of our project future aims would be initiated publish engagement about an up-to-date and comprehensive fire presentation and flame retardant policy legislation.
United Kingdom regulation
In the UK, BS476 includes fire tests on building materials and structures, and methods for the determination of the fire resistance of ventilation ducts. It also has a description of Fire resistance, Construction systems parts, Ventilation ductwork, Ventilation equipment, Ducts (building services), Fire barriers, Fire spread prevention, Test equipment, Testing conditions, Test pressure, Test duration, Test specimens, Dimensions, Specimen preparation, and Performance as well. Part of this standard has been superseded by the current EU regulation, but while some have been retained based on a legitimate need for the standards within non-EU markets."
United States regulation
In the United States, California Technical Bulletin 117, otherwise known as CAL 117 for short, is a regulation that sets the standard for upholstered furniture flammability in the furniture industry. While the regulation is only legally binding in the state of California, it has become a nationwide standard because the state represents such a huge market. CAL 117 requires that certain materials that are used in residential furniture pass both an open flame and a smolder test.
Moreover, ASTM also has its nationwide regulation of fire resistance. The ASTM's fire and flammability standards are involved in the testing and evaluation of the ignition, burning, or combustion characteristics of certain materials. Most of these standards are inclined towards the testing of the flammability of interior and exterior building parts, as well as common household and commercial furniture. These fire and flammability standards are instrumental in the establishment of building codes, insurance requirements, and other fire regulations that govern the use of building materials, as well as in defining the appropriate criteria for the storage, handling, and transport of highly flammable substances according to its website introduction.
Legislated flame retardant laws in 1995, however the terms and conditions were not comprehensive, and there is no relevant local standard yet and does not have a standard of fire retardancy of furniture etc. Some of the testing requirement is following the British Standard 476-1971; or the Portuguese NP standard; Although in Macau, there is a rating scale with 5 categories that define the fire resistance of materials according to the French Standards:
● M0 : non-combustible
● M1 : combustible (non-flammable)
● M2 : combustible (flame retardant)
● M3 : combustible (moderately flammable)
● M4 : combustible (highly flammable)
● NC : not classified