UNSW researchers to develop ecofriendly fire retardants

Researchers from UNSW Sydney, in partnership with Flame Security International, have received a $3 million Commonwealth grant to develop the first eco-friendly, non-toxic and durable flame retardant for use in furniture, clothing, cars and construction materials.

Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation Zed Seselja announced the Cooperative Research Centres-Projects (CRC-P) Program grant on Thursday, in the UNSW School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering.

In addition to the Commonwealth funding, the project has attracted almost $8 million in cash and in-kind contributions from industry and University stakeholders.

The three-year project addresses a need for non-toxic and eco-friendly flame retardant chemicals to protect synthetic materials and fabrics in furniture and clothing, as well external materials such as solar panels and building walls.

Brian Boyle, UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise (left) and Zed Seselja, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation, tour a School of Materials and Manufacturing lab where UNSW researchers are working to develop an industry first ecofriendly and non-toxic fire retardant.
Brian Boyle, UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise (left) and Zed Seselja, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation, tour a School of Materials and Manufacturing lab where UNSW researchers are working to develop an industry first ecofriendly and non-toxic fire retardant.

Many components are highly flammable, presenting a daily threat to human life, property and the environment in a world where polymer and synthetic textile production continues to grow. In addition, the project will work toward manufacturing lightweight fire resistant protective garments in Australia, potentially for global exports.

Assistant Minister Zed Seselja said the project had the potential to support and add value to the Australian manufacturing industry.

“In Australia, fire safety is of utmost importance for the protection of life, property and the environment. Being able to better integrate fire retardant into everyday materials will not only increase the safety of Australians, but add a competitive edge to Australian manufacturers who are able to utilise this technology,” he said.

The CRC-P Program is an Australian federal government initiative to support collaborations between industry, researchers and the community. It is a proven model for linking researchers with industry to focus on research and development for practical use and commercialisation.

“The goal of these instruments created by the government is to interact with industry in a meaningful way to take fast, first-mover advantage in a really important field,” said Brian Boyle, UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise.

“The CRC-Ps, which allow Australia to be nimble and take advantage of the gaps in the market place, are just wonderful. And further, the drive this government has had toward enhancing the industry-engagement piece is focusing us even closer with industry,” Professor Boyle added.