Fighting Fire with Foam

Quantum Technical Services

May 14, 2010— Edmonton, Alberta

As a chemistry undergraduate at the University of Alberta, Tony LaGrange worked as a summer student at a local coatings and fire-retardant business through the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP)’s Youth Employment Program (YEP). After graduation, he began developing new products, and set up manufacturing facilities for another fire-resistant coatings company, which was also an NRC-IRAP supported position. In 1995, LaGrange left this position to form Quantum Technical Services, with a focus on new and improved fire-resistance treatments.

Quantum workers prepare subway cars for fire-resistant coatings.

Starting as a custom formulating and coatings consultancy, Quantum and sister company Magna Coatings have gradually grown to meet a wide range of domestic needs. Quantum attracted attention in 1997 when a new school under construction caught fire in Upper Hay River, Northwest Territories.

Treated with Quantum’s fire-resistant SafeCoat Latex in the attic space (instead of a more expensive sprinkler system), the Office of the Fire Commissioner for the Government of Canada concluded that the coating had prevented a major fire with its associated water damage.

And NRC-IRAP has been there from the beginning. “NRC-IRAP has always been there for me – with suggestions, options, solutions and financial assistance,” says LaGrange. The YEP even helped Quantum employ a graduate chemist to work on applications for polyurea and polyurethane coatings: a situation that seems to repeat the founder’s own early history with NRC-IRAP.

“NRC-IRAP has always been a driving force for me,” says LaGrange. “They helped me get started in the coatings industry. I had the opportunity to develop new products and applications as a consultant and then start my own company, which continues to hire students for R&D through contributions from NRC-IRAP.”

Now, LaGrange specializes in fire-resistant coatings and spray-applied polyurea and polyurethane for the construction and transportation industries, offering over 30 different formulations and products.

The company is also attracting attention in the United States, winning a major contract to supply a high performance fire-resistance coating system for subway cars in California.

“We competed against other companies on these materials, and came up with a winning solution. We’re very proud of that achievement,” says LaGrange.

The company’s research and development (R&D) breakthroughs include high performance epoxy coating systems, zero volatile organic compound (VOC) primers for fast sent coatings and thin film thermal-barrier coatings for structural steel which expand on heating. NRC-IRAP has funded four projects with Quantum, including several projects to develop coating systems with very low VOCs. A current project aims to develop technology and products to protect structural steel against heat damage.

“This latest NRC-IRAP project takes us into a field which Quantum believes it can make a big impact in the future,” says LaGrange.

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