The ignition for
Clariant’s sustainability passion
An unfailing belief in the need to develop environmentally friendly fire protection for plastics started life as a small idea among a selected group of people within the mighty Hoechst AG. “I’d landed my dream job and our team began asking very forward looking questions for the 1990s, investigating how to develop safer and more environmentally friendly ways to lessen the fire risk posed by electrical and electronic goods and protect their plastic parts from igniting. With experience in phosphorus chemistry we believed we had the experience and knowledge to push these boundaries,” says Martin Sicken, Head of Innovation Flame Retardants.
After purchasing Hoechst’s specialty chemicals business in the late 1990s, and despite the occasional technical hitch, this passion proved its worth at Clariant on a number of levels. More than 50 active patents later, an ever-growing product range supports not just the electrical and electronics industries but also mobility, construction and textiles.
Exolit® OP has in fact turned out to be the first milestone in what we now think of as Clariant’s sustainability journey and the commitment we see across all our businesses towards innovative solutions that reduce impacts on the environment, on people’s health, and encourage a Circular Economy.
Based on phosphorus, as opposed to halogens like bromine or chlorine which are partially restricted, these special flame retardants offer unique fire protection possibilities. They have always been ahead of the game in promoting more sustainable manufacturing. In part this is thanks to their low emissions and high temperature stability, needed for engineering plastics. We even use 100% green electricity to produce them at our site in Knapsack, Germany. Today, consumer electronics companies, with their increasing commitment to environmental responsibility and creating greener products, are the ones driving halogen-free electronics. Regulations like RoHS (the European directive on the Restriction of certain Hazardous Substances in electric and electronic equipment), REACH (European regulation on Restriction, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) and WEEE (the directive on Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment) have, of course, played an important role in changing mindsets too. And this set of products is far from standing still, as it continues to be at the forefront of sustainability and innovation in fire protection.
“I’m so proud not only of the sustainability origins of Exolit OP but also that now our customers can opt to use renewable-based versions without losing any of the performance,” says Adrian Beard, Head of Market Segments, Flame Retardants. With a scientific study showing that they can be recycled, they’re helping major electronics OEMs realize goals to design products fit for recycling, or to use more post-consumer recyclates in their products, including those made from ocean-bound plastics. Let’s not forget the critical role in the first Mars mission, either!
Exolit OP flame retardants are in many applications around us, in our electronic devices, the transport we take and the buildings we live and work in. They can protect smartphones and flat screens from catching fire, they slow fire and smoke spread in offices, they can be used as crucial component in preventing home appliance fires, and particularly allow end-applications with the most stringent emission requirements. As e-mobility expands, they’re the hidden element enabling safer protection for everything from charging points to circuit breakers. And demand continues to take off, one of a few examples is the new 5G standard which not only requires a new generation of user devices but also a denser and technically sophisticated infrastructure.
So much so, we’ve continued to up production capacity at our German plant and we’re looking to expand local support for Asian customers. As our team works with business partners to find more ways to bring its benefits to more application areas, it’s fair to say that this pioneering product range will keep up its crucial part in Clariant’s on-going sustainability journey.