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Panel: Rob Simon
Media: Bryan Goodman

Flame retardants are an important component in reducing the devastating impact of fires on people, property and the environment. Their areas of application in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) vary depending on the materials being used, the function of the product, and the level of fire resistance that must be achieved based on fire safety standards. Flame retardants have unique characteristics, and, as a result, need to be matched appropriately to the materials used.

In wires and cables, for example, the flame retardants used must meet fire safety requirements developed specifically for these products because they have the potential for spreading a fire to the electrical socket, and to walls and curtains. The level of flame retardancy required for printed wiring boards used in consumer mobile phones is different than that of wiring boards used in computer servers or in telecommunications or aerospace applications. Higher electrical and mechanical performance demands must be met with flame retardants that can achieve higher flammability and fire resistance standards, without affecting a product’s performance specifications.

When it comes to fire safety, one size does not fit all. Specific flame retardants must be selected carefully to meet fire safety standards, electrical and mechanical requirements. 
The following classes of flame retardants used in EEE include:

  • Bromine-based flame retardants, predominantly TBBPA (help prevent fires from starting or slow down a fire)
  • Chlorine-based flame retardants (work to stop flame formation)
  • Nitrogen-based flame retardants (stop the decomposition process and prevent the release of flammable gases)
  • Phosphorus-based flame retardants (promote charring and prevent the release of flammable gases; provide a barrier between the material and heat source
  • Metal hydroxide and oxide flame retardants (slow down the decomposition process and the release of flammable gases; can be used alone or as synergists to boost other flame retardants’ benefits
  • Combinations of flame retardants are also used for maximum efficiency in specific material applications

Find out more about the classes of flame retardants.

Flame retarding requirements—and the choice of flame retardant solutions—will vary with the properties of the materials used for each specific product and the level and type of mechanical and electrical functions the product must perform. 


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