News | Dec 18, 2018

Navy chemists invent plastic with exceptional fire resistance

High-end plastic with electronics and aerospace applications available to industry through a patent license agreement

News Article Image of Navy chemists invent plastic with exceptional fire resistance

Dr. Ben Harvey, Navy research chemist, hard at work in the laboratory. (Navy photo)

Three U.S. Navy scientists have invented a simple, three-step process to produce lightweight, fire resistant plastics using phosphate.

On Tuesday, Navy inventors Benjamin Harvey, Andrew Chafin, and Michael Garrison, received U.S. Patent 10,155,906, which is titled Fire Resistant Phosphate Cyanate Esters. (full patent below)

The three are research chemists at the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California. In the patent, they note that the use of combustible resins in enclosed environments—for example, aircraft, ships, or submarines—is a safety concern.

Unlike other fire-resistant resins, the new formulation uses a phosphate core, according to the patent, and does not rely on halogenated additives that have “toxic and corrosive byproducts.” After synthesizing the resin, thermal stability and decomposition tests were conducted between 300° and 600° Celsius.

“The high char yields of these resins, up to 67 percent, coupled with phosphate core means that these materials will have applications as fire-resistant polymers,” the new patent reads. “Additionally, these materials can potentially be blended with conventional cyanate esters or other compatible thermosetting resists to improve the fire resistance of composite materials. Other applications may include use in fire-resistant circuit boards, or as surface coatings to reduce (the) flammability of conventional composite materials or thermoplastics,” for example, epoxy resins, fiberglass, or carbon fiber materials.

This table compares the key properties exhibited by the three newly invented phosphate cyanate esters during thermal stability tests.

By applying for and receiving intellectual property protection through a patent, the Navy can license the new technology to commercial manufacturers of plastics for use in new or improved products. By negotiating a patent license agreement with the Navy, a commercial manufacturer can acquire the intellectual property rights, technical data, and know-how related to the novel resin.

This business-friendly process is known as technology transfer, and it allows the federal government’s investment in research and development to be leveraged by private companies. TechLink, the Department of Defense’s go-to for technology transfer expertise, helps companies navigate the process at no cost.

To inquire about this or other available technologies from the Naval Air Warfare Center, contact Marti Elder, senior technology manager at TechLink, marti.elder@techlinkcenter.org or 406-586-7621.