Raul Perez Graterol - Senior Scientist R&D
What is your role in connection with DSM’s halogen-free flame-retardant competence?
I primarily make sure that there is sound scientific background for every decision we make that concerns the use of halogen-free flame retardants. I also apply this knowledge to help support and accelerate product development activities that make use of flame retardants.
What was the biggest challenge in developing halogen-free flame retardants, and how was it solved?
It’s very hard to find a good replacement. The combustion-suppression activity of halogen in the gas phase is highly efficient. I’d say our biggest challenge still is clearly understanding how halogen-free alternatives work in our polymers, and then using modeling to link and translate the knowledge we gain to application performance.
In your opinion, what is the value of this competence to industry and society?
I think that we’re setting a front-runner example in the industry of the crucial and valuable role that scientific understanding can have on the development of new products. It’s obviously in the interest of the industry to have flame-retardant products that are continuously improved in terms of health and environmental characteristics.
Society, in turn, can count on appliances that don’t pose fire or health threats, and which are also environmentally friendly. The competence makes it possible to deliver innovative, effective materials that are made with care and respect for the planet and those who live on it.
In terms of removing toxins from electronic devices, what’s the next challenge for the industry?
I think it will be to discover new and more efficient flame-retardant substances – or chemistries that are not phosphorus-, nitrogen- or metal-hydroxide-based – which do not give off any toxic products at all. At DSM, we can contribute to this by increasing general understanding of what a substance requires to act as a flame retardant in a polymer. This insight will enable us to help guide flame-retardent producers in the synthesis of more efficient types of compounds.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Having the freedom to think and the imagination to explore ideas – this is what allows you to make progress. Research projects are always exciting, as you never know what you’re going to find out. And at the moment it’s especially so because I can’t see any limits in going completely “halogen free”. We’re just at the beginning of this journey.
And what is a DSM halogen-free flame retardant specialist like at home?
I’m married to a beautiful woman – Elzbieta – and have two good and very curious kids: Karol, who is 7, and 4-year-old Jessica. When I’m not spending time with them, I enjoy running in the forest in Valkenburg, a small city close to where I live in Maastricht.