Reactive and Additive Modifications of Styrenic Polymers with Phosphorus Containing Compounds and Their Effects on Fire Retardance

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Polystyrene, despite its high flammability, is widely used as a thermal insulation material for buildings, for food packaging, in electrical and automotive industries, etc. A number of modification routes have been explored to improve the fire retardance and boost the thermal stability of commercially important styrene-based polymeric products. The earlier strategies mostly involved the use of halogenated fire retardants. Nowadays, these compounds are considered to be persistent pollutants that are hazardous to public and environmental health. Many well-known halogen-based fire retardants, regardless of their chemical structures and modes of action, have been withdrawn from built environments in the European Union, USA, and Canada. This had triggered a growing research interest in, and an industrial demand for, halogen-free alternatives, which not only will reduce the flammability but also address toxicity and bioaccumulation issues. Among the possible options, phosphorus-containing compounds have received greater attention due to their excellent fire-retarding efficiencies and environmentally friendly attributes. Numerous reports were also published on reactive and additive modifications of polystyrene in different forms, particularly in the last decade; hence, the current article aims to provide a critical review of these publications. The authors mainly intend to focus on the chemistries of phosphorous compounds, with the P atom being in different chemical environments, used either as reactive, or additive, fire retardants in styrene-based materials. The chemical pathways and possible mechanisms behind the fire retardance are discussed in this review.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3779
Issue number17
Early online date19 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished online - 19 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: Two of us, A.B. and M.A., are grateful for the provision of appropriate overseas PhD studentships from Ulster University, UK, and Victoria University, Australia, respectively. S.T.-M wishes to thank the Royal Society of Chemistry for the financial support (project ID R19-3521).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • fire retardance
  • phosphorus containing fire retardants
  • styrenic polymers
  • thermal stability


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