Researchers at Stony Brook University have recently developed what they’re calling a new, eco-friendly process which both increases the fire resistance of timber, and also dramatically improves its strength.
The new flame retardant consists of a phosphorous-based compound called resorcinol bis (RDP), which the EPA has already declared to be a preferred substitute for halogenated flame retardants.
The new retardant works by penetrating the natural structure of the timber it’s being used to treat, producing a wood-plastic composite which surpasses UL94 V-0 flammability standards. This means that a vertical specimen of the material will stop burning in as little as ten seconds, and won’t give off lit particles.
One particular advantage of the new material according to Miriam Rafailovich, Distinguished Professor and co-director of the Program in Chemical and Molecular Engineering at Stony Brook, is its ability to prevent the spread of fire without producing hazardous chemicals.
According to tests carried out by medical experts at Stony Brook, timber materials treated using RDP pose no hazard to human health either – despite the material being cytotoxic when it’s in an unreacted liquid state.
“Preliminary data in our laboratory confirms that when RDP is reacted with cellulose, or clays … it is safe and non cytoxic”, says Dr Marcia Simon, who is a professor at Stony Brook University and director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Oral Biology and Pathology.
As a bonus, the treatment process can also reinforce the cellulose structure of the treated timber – in some instances making materials up to five times as strong.
This strengthening effect, combined with the fact that the retardant is also able to be produced sustainably and without toxic by-products, makes it a strong candidate for use in habitable buildings – one which is already attracting interest from manufacturers looking to license the product.