SBIR Phase I:Mesoporous Nanoparticle Flame Retardants

Award Information
National Science Foundation
Solitcitation Year:
Solicitation Number:
NSF 09-609
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Small Business Information
5901 East Sleepy Hollow Ln, East Lansing, MI, 48823
Hubzone Owned:
Woman Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Principal Investigator
 Joel Dulebohn
 (517) 388-7321
Business Contact
 Joel Dulebohn
Title: PhD
Phone: (517) 388-7321
Research Institution
This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will investigate mesoporous silicate nanoparticles specifically functionalized to act as char-forming fire retardants (FR) for structural plastics. The particles provide substantial improvements over conventional FR agents that are environmentally undesirable (e.g., halogenated hydrocarbons), cost intensive (e.g., molybdenum oxide), toxic (e.g., antimony oxide), cosmetically unattractive (e.g., red phosphorus) or that compromise mechanical properties (e.g., aluminum trihydrate and organoclays). The project provides an understanding of the factors that regulate the catalytic function of the mesophases in forming char, including the compositions of the framework walls, the framework pore structure and pore size distribution, the fundamental size and shape of the nanoparticles and the loading level of the particles in the polymer matrix. The char-forming properties of the mesophases are manifested as a reduction in the peak heat release rate (PHHR) and a longer time to reach PHHR, as determined by cone calorimetry. Unlike other FR agents, mesoporous silicates nanoparticles provide added value by enhancing the mechanical properties of the final composite at low loadings (< 10 wt%). The combination of FR protection, improved mechanical performance, and particle dispersability without the need for organic surface modifiers presage a paradigm shift in polymer additives technology. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is the development and commercialization of nanoparticles that enhance the properties of structural polymeric materials. The proposed commercialization effort focuses on FR additives for plenum-rated wire and cable applications and high density flexible circuit boards. The global insulated wire and cable market is worth more than $100 billion with plenum-rated cable accounting for approximately 20% of that market. This segment is expected to see global growth of 5% CAGR as new construction demand accelerates. The volume of polymer used for wire and cable insulation in the US in 2008 is estimated to be ~100,000 tons. Thermoplastics constitute the largest market share with polyolefins (polyethylene) representing 41% of the total. The worldwide flexible circuit board market exceeds $7.4 billion and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 13.5%, reaching $16.4 billion in 2014. The current global annual demand for flexible circuits is ~ 39,000 tons. Our nanoparticles are the only materials known to simultaneously provide improved fire retardation, weight reduction, and decreased permeability while enhancing mechanical properties. This combination of properties for polyethylene and polyimide polymers provides a competitive advantage capable of producing $300 million in revenues by 2014.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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