Material Science at lorient

An intumescent material is one that undergoes a chemical change when exposed to heat or flames, expanding dramatically, some to many times its original volume. This physical process is one of the main principles for passive fire protection products – including intumescent strips, which seal the gaps around the perimeter of a fire door. The objective is to contain fire and toxic gases by inhibiting flame penetration, heat transfer and transport of toxic gases from the site of a fire to other parts of a building.

Given that our products are relied upon to save lives and protect property in the event of a fire – we take research and development seriously; and we’re proud to have our own dedicated Material Scientist – Natalia Kopocinksa.

Describe your role as a Materials Scientist?

My role as a material scientist at Lorient is to increase the knowledge and understanding of materials used in passive fire protection. Understand the chemistry of a product, its mode of action and efficacy in application to ensure its compliance with a range of standards and legislation; as well as develop new materials.

What types of intumescent materials are used in seals for fire doors?

    As mentioned above intumescent materials are materials that swell, when exposed to heat, to provide an insulating or/and isolating layer, or to fill a gap. A number of materials exhibit intumescent behaviour, but only three types are currently used in seals for fire resisting door assemblies: a) Ammonium phosphate b) Hydrated sodium silicate c) Intercalated graphite. The characteristics of these materials are quite different from each other not only in their chemical, but also physical characteristics these could be SET- start expansion temperature, pressure development, height of a char, stiffness of the char, and so on. Significant variations may occur within each type, according to the precise formulation used.

    Describe the test methods for intumescent seals

      The most important test for intumescent fire seals is the expansion test. Samples from each production run should be tested for expansion, to make sure that a product will work when it’s needed.

      When we test new materials, or materials after a change was made (e.g. triggered by a change in legislation) we perform semi-scale fire tests in our furnace – this would be a comparison test between two materials, and then subsequently a test on application e.g. air transfer grill in a wall. When we are sure that material works fine, a full fire test is needed to mimic final application and confirm efficacy of a product. This is a legislative requirement.

      What are the most fundamental changes in our industry?

        Scientists are focusing on the safety of the chemicals used in manufacturing; as well as evolved (Volatile Organic Compounds) during the life span of a product (to include disposal). This has been a great achievement of REACH Regulation – which ensures any new chemicals used are proven to be safe in production and use, and there’s been recent emphasis on safe disposal too.

        The European Chemical Agency introduced, through REACH Regulation, an SDS – a “passport” for chemical substances or mixtures. All (acceptable) hazards found during research phase, have to be listed in an SDS and safe handling at every stage of life cycle must be provided as well. After Brexit, HSE has taken over the role of The European Chemical Agency in Great Britain.

        Green building rating systems have emerged such as LEED – which provides a framework for healthy, efficient, carbon and cost-saving green buildings. Finished product data is accumulated and assessed. The assessors need information from professionals with in-depth knowledge of materials or chemistry.

        There’s an increasing awareness of importance of safety of materials from cradle to cradle, and it’s something that companies are prioritising such as ASSA ABLOY.