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.
“UltraCarb, a product manufactured from Hydromagnesite and Huntite, was already positioned as a natural mineral replacement for ATH, with both performance benefits and sustainability benefits” says Ian Yates, UltraCarb Business Development Manager at LKAB Minerals and continues “these latest developments add better sustainability to the list of reasons to change; in particular, availability and long-term pricing stability.”
When used as a fire retardant, ATH releases water in a single action process, while 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.
UltraCarb is widely used in halogen-free and PVC cable sheathings, foam insulation and rubber products to name a few industrial uses.
One of the reasons there is a current supply shortage for ATH is the court ordered stop for a major Brazilian ATH producer, over 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. To compare and highlight the difference, LKAB Minerals commissioned an evaluation of the environmental impact of UltraCarb in conformance with the ISO 14040-14044 method. The evaluation concluded that UltraCarb, when compared to traditional flame retardant fillers, such as aluminium trihydroxide, greenhouse emissions, and energy consumption is 40% - 45% lower.
Industry acceptance and development of formulations
“Experience has shown that to obtain the full performance benefits of UltraCarb some modification to formulation and processing conditions is often necessary when compared with traditional ATH based formulations. In co-operation with customers and major machine manufacturers, LKAB Minerals have developed and tested formulations successfully, and UltraCarb has gained high industry acceptance. We can see from the requests we are receiving that the uncertainty of ATH developments has brought an increased interest to consider a change of flame retardant. Since we doubled our production capacity and developed additional grades, such as UltraCarb LH3 for this market, we are also ready to support these initiatives” Ian Yates stated.