Stanislav Stoliarov & Christopher Lee, University of Maryland
Most of the current fire safety solutions were developed in response to and based on fire accidents that occurred in the past, often some time ago. This model of reactive fire safety engineering may become unsustainable in the future. To ensure that fire safety is maintained or improved, we need to learn how to keep up with emerging technologies in construction, transportation and energy storage. We need to be able to identify and address fire safety issues associated with these technologies before they manifest themselves in the form of fire events. Flame retardants, when used in sufficient quantities, represent one of the most effective ways to improve fire safety. The largest challenge to deployment of flame retardants is their negative public image. The role of flame retardants in future fire safety solutions will depend, to a large degree, on whether their public perception can be changed in the next few years. Flame retardant formulations that can be customized to perfectly balance effectiveness, environmental impact, cost and impact on other material properties critical for a particular application will represent the ideal solution. Finding such solutions will require development of sophisticated models that relate the material composition and its performance.