WisBusiness: Wisconsin firm looks for eco-friendly flame retardant to blaze into market

By Trevin Kreier

For WisBusiness.com

No one has ever claimed the $4.5 billion flame retardant marketplace has a reputation for being eco-friendly. In fact, many of the market’s existing products have been found to be toxic and biopersistent. Interfacial Solutions is innovating a way to change all of that.

“We have been working on flame retardant materials for the past five years,” said Jeff Cernohaus, founder of Interfacial Solutions. “The whole issue with the flame retardant market is that most of the products are not eco-friendly. We are very aware of the market demand and the situation that is currently in place.”

After founding the company in his garage in 2003, Cernohous has built Interfacial Solutions into a multi-million dollar company.

“We have launched 25 products that have generated more than $300 million in revenue for our customer base,” said Cernohous. “We also have 24 intellectual property patents that we are looking to spin-off into potential companies.”

The biggest of all those intellectual property patents? The eco-friendly flame retardant material.

“The flame retardant material we have developed has a type of ‘M&M’ concept, with a tiny micro-bubble surrounded by active flame retardant materials,” Cernohous said. “Working with the Wisconsin-based company Saco Polymers, we have developed an eco-friendly, flame retardant material.”

This proprietary technology provides for a means to coat low-cost microparticles with conventional flame retardant additives. It makes the flame retardant chemistry more effective by dramatically increasing its surface area during a fire.

“The revenue potential here could be tens of millions of dollars in just a few years time,” said Cernohous. “There is a salient need for a green, eco-friendly flame retardant material on the market, and I don’t see why we could not start right away.”

If there is such a need for an eco-friendly material, why did Interfacial Solutions start now? According to Cernohous, time is the only reason.

“The reason we are finally getting into this now is basically a function of time,” said Cernohous. “Hiring a CEO in June has really given me the opportunity to start putting together business plans and capital to get some of these technology startups off the ground.”

Along with its partner, Saco Polymers, Interfacial Solutions is gearing up to move quickly.

“Together, we are looking to start a new company with a pilot plant and a production plant to produce these green, flame retardant materials,” said Cernohous.

Interfacial Solutions was selected to present in the Wisconsin Angel Network track at the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium in November to help attract the eye of potential investors.

“It is no secret, we are looking to raise money for these technologies to turn them into spin-off companies,” said Cernohous. “With the added capital, we can create new businesses and focus those factories around those specific technologies or products.”

— Kreier is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.