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AlgoBio

A non-toxic bio-based flame retardant that keeps people safe from the fast spread of fire without causing any long-term health impacts.

  • Both cotton pieces underwent the same flame test. The left has our coating, the right does not.

  • This video compares raw vinyl and vinyl with our flame retardant coating being burned.

    This video compares raw vinyl and vinyl with our flame retardant coating being burned.

  • This is our logo.

  • This is a piece of cotton before and after a flame test.

  • This is a piece of cotton coated in our flame retardant, before and after a flame test.

  • Both vinyl pieces underwent the same flame test. The left has our coating, the right does not.

What it does

Flame retardants are an important aspect of fire safety, however, most flame retardants have shown to cause long-term health effects. Our solution is a non-toxic flame retardant made from renewable resources, which is safer for humans and the environment.


Your inspiration

Co-founders Anneke and Elias first learned about the toxic impacts of flame retardants in our first-year Nanotechnology Engineering class. We learned that flame retardants can cause fertility issues, cancer, and inhibit brain development in children, which motivated us into wanting to make a change. After learning about nanomaterials throughout our program and gathering the skills we needed to solve this problem, we designated our Fourth Year Design Project to solve this problem. We had a goal to make a positive impact on the environment and human health by replacing these toxic chemicals with a green and safe solution.


How it works

A flame retardant is a chemical compound that helps prevent the ignition and spread of fire on materials they are used in and required in many consumer and industrial products. Our solution uses a biopolymer made from seaweed, which possesses intrinsic flame retardant abilities, instead of using toxic chemicals. Our coating combines this alginate polymer matrix with embedded nanoparticles that synergize to provide optimal flame resistance by retarding the combustion reactions in polymers and extinguishing ignited material. We have two different coating formulations that both surpass the industry standard flame retardancy level because they have a burn rate that is 10x better than the requirement.


Design process

Ever since we learned about the negative health and environmental impacts flame retardants cause, we decided something had to change. We conducted an endless amount of research on non-toxic materials that had flame retarding capabilities and finally settled on the seaweed biopolymer because it had the added advantage of being made from a renewable resource. We then investigated different nanoparticle additives that would bring our coating to the next level of flame retardancy. After gathering the materials, we got to work in the wet lab to test out these theories. We fabricated 2 different formulations to find the optimal coating. We conducted the industry-standard flame test and to our surprise, they both surpassed the capability of chemical flame retardants. We then performed toxicity tests to ensure that both of our coatings had no toxic impact. Now that we have a basic prototype and proof that it works, we are performing customer interviews to discover more ways it can be improved and how it can be incorporated into our customers' products.


How it is different

Our solution provides 3 major advantages compared to current flame retardants in our customer segment. 1) Our product is non-toxic. Unlike toxic flame retardants, which release toxic particles into the air and environment, causing long-term health effects as well as bioaccumulating in the environment making their way into our water bodies. 2) Our product will save the customer money in the long term. Due to the toxicity, the number of flame retardants being banned by government regulation is increasing. This financially impacts our customers because they’ve purchased materials that are discontinued and they are required to follow tight government regulations, like paying for a specific waste stream or purchasing protective equipment for employees. 3) Our product is sustainable and made from renewable resources. Current flame retardants are made from non-renewable resources and are not easily recyclable, which has a negative impact on the Earth’s climate.


Future plans

Based on what we have gathered from customer conversations so far, there are 6 important objectives that our technology needs to meet. These include: good flame retardancy, non-harmful to humans or the environment, good physical properties, easily disposed of, to be cost-effective and scalable. In the future, we expect that flame retardants in every industry will be non-toxic. We think this is achievable, with some slight modifications to our formulation to make our product available as an additive, instead of just a coating, for industries like plastic and rubber.


Awards


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