Friday, December 12, 2014

An Update on the HCFC-225 (AK-225) Phase Out & Ban – Guest Blog

by Steve Allen, VP Marketing and Innovation, ACL Staticide

Steve Allen's latest Guest Blog looks at the chemical replacements for AK-225 as it is approaches its total ban.

The EPA ban and elimination of HCFC-225 (also known as AK-225, and referred to that way from this point on) is a current topic of continuing concern in the area of electronics cleaning and printed circuit board (PCB) rework and repair. The banning of AK-225, effective January 1, 2015, will limit the number of available types of solvents for electronics cleaning. This will, once again, change the solvent cleaning landscape in our industry. It's important to understand what replacement chemistries will be available in 2015 and how this will affect end-users.

AK-225 falls under the EPA's Clean Air Act as a Class II ozone-depleting entity and is now defined as an Agency-Controlled Substance. It is thus deemed unlawful for any person to engage in interstate commerce of the solvent or any use of the substance unless it has been used, recovered, or recycled or used to produce another chemical, or finally, used as a refrigerant (until 1/1/2020). End-users may use, and continue to purchase, aerosols containing AK-225 made before January 1, 2015. Beginning January 1, 2015, AK-225 can only be used in the manufacture of end-user cleaning products if it has been used, recovered, and recycled, as per the Clean Air Act.

AK-225 (HCFC-225) is a cleaning solvent mixture of two isomers, HCFC-225ca and HCFC-225cb. AK-225 has many unique properties, including its ability to form azeotropes, strong solvency, and thermal stability, which makes it good for use in vapor degreasing. AK-225 is non-flammable, has a low acute toxicity, low viscosity, high density, and low surface tension. This list of great performance characteristics is what makes AK-225 such a great general-purpose precision-cleaning solvent. It is also why this particular solvent has been so difficult to replace with alternatives.

The Agency has approved more than 300 substitutes for multiple applications. Potential substitutes for AK-225 include DuPont Vertrel Solvents (Vertrel XF), n-Propyl Bromide (nPB), Trichloroethylene (TCE; mostly Chinese sources today), 3M hydrofluoroethers (HFEs), and Honeywell's Solstice Performance Fluid (Solstice PF).

DuPont's Vertrel has characteristics similar to AK-225, but is much more environmentally friendly. Solvents containing nPB work well for difficult precision-cleaning applications, but they are not considered environmentally friendly. From a health and environmental perspective, both nPB and TCE are not good replacements for AK-225 due to their low exposure limits and suspect carcinogenicity. The EPA is also currently evaluating the flammability limits of nPB. Additionally, TCE is an overly aggressive solvent making it unsuitable for use with most plastics and elastomers.

From an environmental standpoint 3M HFEs are great as they have been granted VOC exemption. Honeywell's HFO-1233zd(E) has a low global warming potential and is non-flammable. However, cost to the end-user for familiar cleaning applications may be an issue.

Because AK-225 is commonly used in high-end, Class 3 applications (like aerospace, medical, and biotech), qualification of replacement solvents is a difficult and complex process. It is not too early to start the process, and there are many choices to meet most every requirement. ACL Staticide has encouraged its end-use customers to initiate the replacement qualification process early to ensure solvent compatibility, performance, and product availability.

Considering all the facts and chemical replacement requirements from the EPA, ACL has developed a line of solvent chemistries and formulations designed specifically as AK-225 replacements. Our new line includes both flammable products and non-flammable products with our non-flammable alternatives developed specifically for AK-225. In particular, our new ACL 8624 A4 All Purpose Flux Remover & Cleaner has been formulated as a universal performance replacement for all former AK-225 applications. It has many of the same great features of AK-225, but without the ozone-depletion potential. It is recommended that the product be tested on plastics prior to use to determine plastic compatibility with each customer's unique application and process. Contact Q Source, Inc., your ACL Staticide distributor, at 800-966-6020 for more information regarding ACL's AK-225 replacements.

A big thank you to Steve, for another informative Guest Blog. We've appreciated your Q Source Resource contributions throughout this year and we look forward to more in 2015.

For information about ACL Staticide, or to purchase their related products, please visit our ACL Staticide Department at You may also contact us via email or phone (800-966-6020) and one of our associates will be happy to assist you.

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