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Fraunhofer – Safe and non-toxic fire-protection gel

EARTO Innovation Awards 2020 – Impact Delivered Category

Third Prize

        The use of glazed elements as fire-protection closure is a challenge. The fire-protection glazing using hydrogels has been developed since 1970. However, the establishment of such systems is characterised by the use of carcinogenic elements. As a result, the operational staff, who handles these chemicals by hand, could face occupational difficulties and process management, reproducibility, and quality-controlled production is challenging. The Fraunhofer Institute of Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology (UMSICHT) in collaboration with industrial partner Hörmann has developed a new type of non-toxic fire-protection gel which contributes to less use of resources and leads to a safe automated production process.  
Fraunhofer’s hydrogel development was designed in a period of only four years (2015 to 2018)
The new tool reduces treatment planning time by up to 80% and increases plan quality by up to 30%
The new glazing production method can reduce fire protection gel thickness by 3mm and weight by 12%
Fraunhofer and collaborator Hörmann verified the function of fire-resistant components in gas burners of up to 1,000°C
  Industrialising non-toxic gel components The performance of the fire-protection gel as well as its dangerous using methods urged the need to establish a new gel production process. According to the present state of knowledge, there is no information regarding the interaction between the synthesis parameters of hydrogels and the fire-protection properties. The scientists systematically studied these interactions, scientists transformed the idea into a plant technology process, which builds up a new state of art. This process allows a continuous mixing and processing of its reactive components.   Continuous, automated, and digitalised production process EARTO member Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, on behalf of the Fraunhofer UMSICHT and industrial partner Hörmann KG Glastechnik, developed for the first time a brand-new production process for the manufacture of continuous, automated, and digitalised fire-resistant glazings based on a non-toxic gel component, rich of water and electroytes, which is filled in the interspace of two glasses. This novel methodological approach depends on the gel formulation and the parameters selected during the gel production, using a new type of mixing element in an innovative polymerisation synthesis process. This enables the industrial production of fire-protection gels, and leads to a high performance fire-resistant glazings, which meet the desired criteria in terms of toxicology, occupational safety, transparency, UV resistance, and fire-protection behaviour.   Opening up new market opportunities Fraunhofer UMSICHT’s innovation has paved the way for reducing the thickness of the fire-protection gel, by 3 millimetres and saving 12% weight in a large area of a three millimetres’ glazing. This process can, thus limit resources and CO2 output by saving raw materials and reducing transport weight. Fraunhofer UMSICHT along with its industrial collaborator, Hörmann, have verified the function of fire-resistant components in standardised tests and established a new, digitalised, quality controlled, and automated fire-protection glazing production facility, under the VITRAFIRE® brand of Hörmann, in accordance with the existing international standards and norms. The system also offers excellent opportunities for further developments, as it is scalable and not limited in terms of extended quantities, while extending the process chain and implementing the production of blank panes.   The video of the innovation is available here and here.  
More information about this innovation
The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is a leading research and technology organisation with 72 institutes and research units throughout Europe. It employs a staff of around 26,600 who work with an annual research budget totalling €2.2B, 70% of which is generated through collaborative research with industry and publicly-funded projects. The Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM specialises in modelling, simulation and optimisation.   The Fraunhofer Institute of Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology (UMSICHT) specialises in sustainable energy and raw materials management.
© Photos Credit: Fraunhofer