Way back in the mid- and late- 80's (the 1980's, not the 1880's in case I need to make that clear), I can remember scanning the table of contents of various polymers journals and seeing research on phosphorus-based polymers. Much of it was from Harry Allock of Penn State, but there were others too. I thought then that they could make for some interesting materials when commercialized, but when I saw that these polymers had, even back then, already been studied for more than 30 years, I realized that maybe all the more they would ever be is an academic curiosity. Which is rather strange when you think about it, as there are plenty of organic polymers that are made from more than just carbon and hydrogen. Oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur are all used extensively (as are fluorine and chlorine), but why phosphorus never made it to the big time has always struck me as odd.
But that might be changing. Plastics Today
is reporting of an attempt by FRX Polymers
to commercialize a polyphosphonate polymer for use as a flame retardant. There are both homo- and copolymers (carbonate being the comonomer), they resins are clear and they mix well with a variety of polymers. Being non-brominated is a big plus for their use as flame retardants as there is ever increasing pressure to move away from those materials.
Hopefully this product can make it. It would have only taken about 60 years to go from the first discovery of polymers with phosphorus to the first commercialization (at least no one as been bankrolling the venture for all that time), but it might just be worth all the wait.
Update: Thanks to Neil Withers for pointing out my misspelling of the 15th element. It has been corrected. (At least I consistently misspelled it!)
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