ATH shortages and price hikes further increase demand for UltraCarb

With the price for aluminium metal being high, it is more profitable to sell raw Aluminium trihydroxide (ATH) for conversion to aluminium than for chemical uses. This brings higher procurement costs and supply constraints for polymer companies, prompting them to consider replacements.

“We position UltraCarb, a product from a deposit rich in a naturally occurring mineral assemblage, already as a natural mineral replacement for ATH. It has both performance benefits and sustainability benefits” says Ian Yates, UltraCarb Business Development Manager at LKAB Minerals. He continues “these latest developments add better sustainability to the list of reasons to change; in particular, availability and long-term pricing stability.”

Performance benefits HMH

When used as a fire retardant, ATH releases water in a single action process. While the alternative UltraCarb offers a unique 3-stage fire-retardant mechanism with water release, CO2 release and finally char formation as temperatures rise. The 3-stage mechanism allows UltraCarb to offer significant improvements in fire retardancy and safety.

The industry widely uses UltraCarb in:

  • halogen-free and PVC cable sheathings
  • foam insulation
  • and rubber products

Sustainability benefits UltraCarb

One reason for a current supply shortage for ATH is the court ordered stop for a major Brazilian ATH producer. This is due to concerns of rainfalls causing leakage of toxic red mud, reducing their capacity by 50%.

In addition to environmental and safety concerns, the production of ATH is very energy intensive. LKAB Minerals have conducted an evaluation to compare and highlight the difference. We commissioned an assessment of the environmental impact of UltraCarb in conformance with the ISO 14040-14044 method. The review concluded that for UltraCarb greenhouse emissions, and the energy consumption is 40% – 45% lower. This conclusion was drawn when comparing this to traditional flame retardant fillers such as aluminium trihydroxide (ATH).

Industry acceptance and development of formulations

“To obtain the full performance benefits of UltraCarb some modification to formulation and processing conditions is often necessary. Especially in cases where companies use traditional ATH based formulations. In co-operation with customers and major machine manufacturers, we have developed and tested formulations successfully. And we can confirm that UltraCarb has gained high industry acceptance. The uncertainty of ATH developments has brought increased interest to consider a change of flame retardant. We can see that from the increase of requests we are receiving for UltraCarb. We doubled our production UltraCarb capacity and developed additional grades, such as UltraCarb LH3 for this market,” Ian Yates stated.