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FRX preparing to open flame retardant plant

By: Frank Esposito

October 23, 2013

DUSSELDORF, GERMANY -- FRX Polymers will open its first commercial plant making polyphosphonate flame retardant by the end of November.

The plant will be located in Antwerp, Belgium, on part of a larger chemicals complex operated by Bayer AG. The operation will employ 16 at first, but eventually will expand to 35, President and CEO Marc Lebel said at an Oct. 18 news conference at K 2013.

FRX's Nofia-brand halogen-free phosphonates "are the clear choice for flame retardant plastics," he added. The material can be blended into many other thermoplastics and thermoset resins. It's designed to replace brominated flame retardants, which have been banned in some parts of Europe because of toxicity concerns.

"The reason we started [FRX] in 2003 was that we thought the way of the future was polymeric flame retardant," Lebel said. "It would be good if the flame retardant didn't migrate out of the plastic over time" like bromine did.

Chelmsford, Mass.-based FRX holds 46 patents on the technology and has applied for 90 others. The firm is sourcing some of its feedstock from the Bayer site in Antwerp.

Lebel added that another advantage of Nofia is that it's not a filler but is part of a polymer matrix, so it can "open up the door" for other additives. The material is expected to find a home in electrical/electronic applications – such as electrical connectors and electronic housings – as well as in the building and construction and transportation markets.

FRX has operated a pilot plant in Chelmsford since 2007 and a semi-commercial plant in Domat-Ems, Switzerland since 2010. The Swiss site shares a location with Berlin-based technology provider and machinery supplier Uhde Inventa-Fischer GmbH, which has worked with FRX on commercializing the material.

A key monomer and process to produce polyphosphonates was developed by Dieter Freitag, a former Bayer technologist and Plastics Hall of Fame member, at FRX Polymers in the early 2000s, and FRX Polymers was incorporated in 2007.

In 2012, the Nofia trade name was chosen for the product family which includes homopolymers, copolymers and oligomers.