New Research Into Flame-Resistant Polyurethane Foams


It’s hit the news recently that a graduate student at Pittsburgh State University is completing an amazing research project into making everyday materials increasingly safe and more environmentally friendly. Charith Ranaweera, currently in the process of finishing his Masters in PSU’s polymer chemistry program, is working to create flame-resistant polyurethane foams using discarded orange peels.

The starting chemicals for polyurethane and many other polymers are not renewable as they are obtained from petrochemicals. In his research, Ranaweera began by using the limonene to synthesize a bio-polyol that could be substituted for the petrochemicals normally used to produce polyurethane. He then incorporated a compound that contained phosphorous to increase the fire retardant properties of the product. “We showed that polyurethane foam prepared from our bio-polyol can be used for thermal insulation and packaging with the additional benefit of fire safety,” Ranaweera said.[1]

Here at FRPM we love hearing the latest development stories about how researchers are making the polymers safer and how researchers are becoming increasingly environmentally friendly. At FRPM 2017, we will hear from some of the leading experts in the field who will showcase and give insights into the latest developments in the industry.

This year’s conference will be taking place at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, on July 3rd. We’re really excited because not only is the content set to be incredible, The Bridgewater Hall is Manchester’s international concert venue, built to give the best possible space for acoustics. So, location-wise it is perfect too! The Hall hosts over 250 performances a year, and is the home to three resident orchestras: the Hallé, the BBC Philharmonic and Manchester Camerata.

Situated in the heart of the city, the Hall is surrounded by a spectacular range of unique architectural styles, making Manchester’s skyline a sight to behold. Local attractions near the Hall include the gothic splendour of Manchester’s Town Hall, where we plan to host the conference dinner, the Central Library, and the Manchester Cathedral – an essential visit in the city with an impressive interior displaying the best late medieval woodwork in the North.

But, in comparison to the actual event, that’s not even the most interesting part! With invited speakers such as Dr. Richard E Lyon from the Federal Aviation Administration, Prof Carl-Eric Wilem – Head of Laboratory at Abo Akademi in Finland, Dr Stanislav Stoliard from the Fire Protection Engineering Department and Prof. Stuart Harrad (of Environmental Chemistry) from University of Birmingham, the event is shaping up to be most intriguing and a perfect chance to network in the community. To see the full list of invited speakers, please click here.

If you think this all sounds like an opportunity not to be missed, remember to register your attendance before March 31st to take full advantage of our Early Bird offer.


FRPM – Lorry fire closes M6 motorway in Cheshire.

fire composites conference

A lorry set alight on the M6 in Cheshire, the fire lead to rush-hour closure of the northbound carriageway. Whether this could have been prevented by increased use of fire retardant polymers and composites is unclear at this stage.

Three lanes from junction 20 to junction 21, Lymm interchange to Warrington and Irlam, were closed while firefighters tackled the lorry blaze.

fire composites conferenceThe incident occurred on the slip road at junction 20 shortly before 07:05am on Tuesday.The three lanes were later opened at 11am on Tuesday by police, however drivers were still told to avoid the area because of the backlog.

fire composites conference

Emergency resurfacing and removal of the lorry from the area will be carried out by Highways England, which is expected to last several hours. Lane one of the northbound carriageway is closed, along with the entry slip road on to the northbound carriageway at junction 20.

The blaze damaged safety barriers and surrounding lamp posts, these will be made safe by Highways England. No one is believed to have been injured in the fire.

fire composites conference

At around 11:10am, the North West Motorway Police tweeted “Management of the scene at ‪#M6 HGV Fire has been handed over to ‪@HighwaysNWEST. Thank you for your patience during this incident. “

The incident did cause some disruptions. The M56 exit slip road to the M6 northbound was closed, which caused queuing traffic. As of midday, there were still delays and slow moving traffic on M6 northbound between junctions 20 and 21.

fire composites conference

Earlier, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said the fire was “causing lots of smoke across the motorway”.

The FRPM 2017 conference, taking place 3-6 July, 2017 at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall will focus on fire resistant materials, including polymers and composites. The last day of the conference will be entirely dedicated to composites in fire resistant technology. You can view the full conference breakdown here.

Competition to orally present your paper at FRPM 2017 is very high, if you are studying or researching fire retardant, polymers or composites –  submit your abstract here before 31st January.

Brentford recycling centre fire: The blaze hits M4 traffic

fire composites conference


Are industrial fires on the rise? A large fire coated the skies of the M4 yesterday afternoon. The thick smoke from the recycling centre in West London billowed across the M4 yesterday causing major delays.

The fire started around 12:09 GMT.  It took around 80 firefighters to combat the fire in Trafford Avenue, Brentford, with reports of delays eastbound on the M4. The smoke could be seen from Heathrow Airport about six miles away!


Local residents were advised to minimize exposure to the smoke as much as possible.

“Crew are working hard to get the fire under control.

This is likely to be a protracted incident though and we would advise people living and working nearby to keep their doors and windows closed as a precaution because of the smoke.”

– Station manager Jerome Kumedzin

The fire crews were also called out to deal with a large fire at an industrial unit in London yesterday morning. Around 70 firefighters tackled the fire in Bernard Road, Tottenham, near Seven Sisters Station. The fire fighters said the source of the fire is unknown but it was under control by 14:21 but the roof and ground floor remained damaged.

At least half of the Tottenham building caught fire in the blaze, but there are no reports of injuries at either site.

industrial fires

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment, Richard Benyon, has revealed that in his years the average rate of fires at waste and recycling works came in at ‘just under’ one per day.

According to the statistics, 2001 was the best year recorded with 246 fires, whilst 2011 was the worst with 425 fires investigated by the Environment Agency.

The average for the 12 years was 335 fires per year, which means that statistically a fire takes place every 0.92 days at an English recycling or waste management facility. With regular fires occurring across the UK in industrial environments, passive fire protection is a valuable investment.

For further information on the polymeric materials that can be used to increase passive fire safety in buildings, register for the FRPM 2017 conference, taking place 3-6 July, 2017 at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall. You can view the full conference breakdown . The call for 2017 FRPM abstracts entries closes 31st January.

Safety first: Bonfire Night tips to keep flames fun


Fire safety for the fireworks season

Another autumn, another bonfire night- there have been almost continuous celebrations across the country for the last fortnight and while it has been a welcome respite from the cold and increasingly gloomy evenings, this year still saw fireworks-related hospitalisations.

Almost a 150 people annually are admitted to hospital with fireworks related injuries, many of which could be helped through basic first aid training and basic awareness of fire safety. From the firework code to simple sparkler safety – everything counts toward your safety.

Fire Safety

Young adults & children are particularly vulnerable to incidents – under 18’s account for 39% of Bonfire Night A&E admissions. While the fireworks will begin to die down after the weekend, these fire safety tips are worth bearing in mind, as the flammable festivities extend into the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Awareness of the dangers of fire, and the sensible use of fire retardant materials where possible, can help to make fireworks enjoyable, rather than devastating.

The firework code:

  • Plan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable.
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box and use them one at a time.
  • Read and follow the instructions on each firework.
  • Light the firework at arm’s length with a taper and stand well back.
  • Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks.
  • Never return to a firework once it has been lit.
  • Don’t put fireworks in pockets and never throw them.
  • Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators.
  • Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire.
  • Make sure that a fire is out and surroundings are safe when leaving.

Fire: friend or foe?

It is notable that fire awareness is increasing as incidents involving fire have declined. No small part of this has been the investment by local authorities of some truly owe inspiring public fireworks displays which are much more spectacular than anything you can achieve at home.

It is important to know what to do, if you or anyone near you is endagered by fire. If any clothes catch fire the instructions are stop, drop and roll. These injuries can happen in seconds but the mental and physical scares can last a life time. Enjoy your celebration responsibly so that you can enjoy the memories forever!

As always, ensure that clothing is sensible, and avoid trailing scarves, or full skirts that could easily catch alight.

July 2017 will see the return of the Fire Resistant Polymeric Materials Conference, in Manchester, July 3-6. The University of Bolton and University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) are delighted to be hosting the 16th European Meeting on Fire Retardant Polymeric Materials. Fire research at the University of Bolton has a history spanning nearly forty years in areas of textiles, fibre-reinforced composites and bulk polymers with particular emphasis on development of novel flame retardant systems, fire gas analysis, fire retardant mechanisms and associated modelling.

For further conference information, please click here.

Is the flammable reality of Halloween more frightening than the spooky stories?

fire materials

Halloween may be over for another year, but ‘Killer clowns’ aren’t the only potential danger to watch out for.

Last year, Halloween headlines were rocked by the news that the 8-year old daughter of Strictly Come Dancing co-host Claudia Winkleman had suffered severe burns after her costume caught alight.

The material these costumes are made of melts when it burns and it will stick to the skin causing horrific injuries.

fire materials

The television personality has been sharing the real life horror story since the event happened – and attempting to shed light on the fact that many Halloween costumes are classed as toys, rather than clothing, and are therefore not subject to clothing standards, including fire resistance.

Under EN71-2, outfits are set alight in controlled conditions. The flame must not spread faster than 3cm per second. Anything with a burning rate between 1cm and 3cm per second must carry a label saying: ‘Warning! Keep away from fire.’

In 2015, Manchester Fire Service tested a variety of childrens’ Halloween costumes, some of which melted away after just 9 seconds. Fire services across the country are now calling on parents to be vigilant, and to choose LED lights rather than candles as part of the spooky festivities.

Parents are being asked to be extra cautious around the festivities, although fire services urge that there is no reason not to take part in the fun. By making yourself fully informed of the precautions you should take to reduce the chances of flammable materials becoming potentially life threatening.

It is of great concern that these costumes do not need to fall under standard clothing regulations, which while not preventing material from being completely fire resistant, do give parents and children a chance of putting out the flame, or of removing the garment before serious burns are caused.

If you are working on research into Fire Resistant Materials, Polymers or Composites – view the conference information for the FRPM17 conference here.





The devastating fire at Truro’s Café Cleopatra: what does a year’s progress look like?

fire retardant materials

On the 1st November 2015, a three-storey blaze was tackled by fire crews from across Cornwall. A Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said dozens of firefighters attended because of the “severity of the fire and the complexity of the building”.

Despite the best efforts of firefighters, the flames and smoke, which were first spotted at 5am, spread from the café to nearby buildings, and resulted in devastating damage to the street.

fire retardant materials

Traders along the street say that they have been dealing with the consequences of the fire for much longer than they could have anticipated, with many of the owners suffering from anxiety and other health related problems following the stress of the incident.

For many home and business owners, the thought of a devastating fire sweeping through the street never enters the mind: but solid fire evacuation plans, extinguishers and passive fire protection are all vital components of preventing the spread of difficult to control fires, and everyone should have the highest level of fire protection in place.

Passive Fire Protection is an integral component of the three components of structural fire protection and fire safety in a building. PFP attempts to contain fires or slow the spread, through use of fire-resistant walls, floors, and doors. It is essential that research into fire retardant materials, including polymers and composites, continues to progress, to provide greater safety and awareness on an individual as well as governmental level.

July 2017 will see the return of the Fire Resistant Polymeric Materials Conference, in Manchester, July 3-6. The University of Bolton and University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) are delighted to be hosting the 16th European Meeting on Fire Retardant Polymeric Materials. Fire research at the University of Bolton has a history spanning nearly forty years in areas of textiles, fibre-reinforced composites and bulk polymers with particular emphasis on development of novel flame retardant systems, fire gas analysis, fire retardant mechanisms and associated modelling.

For further conference information, please click here.

Fires in Clubs and Bars



In the early hours of Saturday, August 6th, a fire broke out in the basement of the Cuba Libre bar and club in Rouen. The fire apparently started when a birthday cake with several lighted candles was dropped, setting fire to acoustic foam panels on a wall near the exit from the basement. Fire spread rapidly to similar panels on the ceiling and, in the resulting panic and confusion, 13 people succumbed to smoke and fumes and were killed, with another six being critically injured.

Although all aspects of the event are not yet clear, it seems highly likely that the fire spread rapidly owing to the use of inadequately flame retarded polymer-based panels. If so, this tragic event mirrors many other club and bar fires involving the rapid burning of non-flame retarded acoustic and insulating wall and ceiling materials in which many lives were lost, some going back nearly half a century, e.g. Club Cinq-Sept, France, 1970; Ozone Disco Club, Philippines, 1996; Station Nightclub, USA, 2003; Republica Cromanon Nightclub, Argentina, 2004; Kiss Nightclub, Brazil, 2013; Colectiv Nightclub, Romania, 2015.

Given that flame-retarded acoustic and insulating panels are available from literally hundreds of suppliers worldwide these days, there is really no excuse for any organization not to ensure that their existing building materials satisfy modern fire safety regulations covering flammability and to replace them if they do not. High occupancy entertainment venues, such as night clubs, are clearly at greater risk of serious fatalities, and inadequately regulated. However, in Europe there is currently no regulation for the fire toxicity of building materials, although China and Japan have had such regulation for over a decade. While failure to meet regulations under most jurisdictions amounts to a criminal offence, the lack of regulation on fire toxicity leads to the greater number of deaths.

The latest developments in the design and manufacture of fire-safe materials for many applications will be covered at FRPM17.

John Ebdon

August 2016