With its products Disflamoll and Levagard, LANXESS is a reliable partner for tackling fire incidents. A minor technical error, such as a short circuit in the wiring harness is enough to start a fire. However, depending on the intensity, it can still take several minutes for the entire car to go up in flames if the fire continues to spread. This usually gives drivers and passengers enough time to get themselves to safety – all thanks to chemical flame retardants in the materials. These flame retardants inhibit or delay combustion processes. They are found in plastics such as polyurethanes, which carmakers use to upholster seats, roof linings, rear shelves or side trim panels.
Evidence of this expertise can be found in Leverkusen, Germany, in the middle of CHEMPARK, one of Europe’s largest chemical parks. Here is where CURRENTA tests the effectiveness of LANXESS fire retardants under controlled supervision at its fire technology laboratory. “Materials in cars and buses must meet certain fire technology standards. The point of this is to ensure that a car seat, for example, does not explode into flames,” said Julian Bulk, Laboratory Supervisor, CURRENTA Fire Technology.
Using a wide range of standardised test methods, he and his 18 colleagues review the fire behaviour of plastics every day. “The plastics being tested are normally protected with flame retardants to fulfill the requirements,” he explained.
Heiko Tebbe, Senior Manager, Application Technology, LANXESS business unit Rhein Chemie Additives said, “During the burning process, Levagard forms a sort of protective layer of carbon on the material. We call this process ‘carbonisation.’ It prevents oxygen and heat from entering the lower layers of the material and keeps the fire from spreading further.”
It is essential to extinguish a fire as quickly as possible, regardless of whether it was caused by a technical defect, an accident or just a brief lapse in judgment by the driver or one of the passengers. But because this is not always possible; automakers today are increasingly turning to the self-extinguishing effect of Disflamoll and Levagard fire retardants – not least because the effect goes well beyond the minimum horizontal burning rate requirements.