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Degussa NanoTech Day: Highly Promising Research Results from the Functional Polymers Project House

Published on 2006-09-29. Author : SpecialChem

"Nanotechnology is a key to new product properties, and therefore to new and profitable markets." With these words Dr. Manfred Spindler, member of the Management Board of Degussa AG, opened the NanoTech Day at the specialty chemicals company in Hanau-Wolfgang. Worldwide nanotechnology-based sales revenues in the year 2010 are conservatively estimated at €220 billion. This corresponds to a doubling of revenues in the next five years, with materials accounting for a share of approximately €62 billion in 2010. On the NanoTech Day 120 scientists discussed the innovation potential of nanotechnology, which ranges from particles synthesis to polymeric formulations. "With the technology platforms developed over the past three years in our Functional Polymers Project House, we now have the technology for novel product properties also in the field of polymer materials," says Dr. Spindler:

In focus: laser-processable materials, scratch-resistant surfaces, and mechanically reinforced plastics

For three years, the 21 members of the Degussa project house have been working on the nano-enhancement of materials properties, which is not achievable with conventional technologies. Initially it was necessary to understand the interaction of polymers with nanoparticles, and to develop techniques for uniform and stable distribution of nanoparticles in the polymer matrix. The project house then used this knowledge in three areas: in laser-processable materials and scratch-resistant surfaces and in stretching the thermo-mechanical-envelop of plastics.

For example, the project house researchers have developed a technology based on nanoscaled metal oxides that allows PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate) as well as transparent polyamide to be laser welded or laser marked, without affecting transparency. The technology can be applied in interior design and the packaging industry, for the production of tamper-proof labels and barcodes. For the automotive and electronic industry, there are many interesting applications, too, especially where competitors want to differentiate technical goods with new designs.

Plastics can be mechanically reinforced by embedding nanoparticles in the polymer matrix. For PMMA and polyamide, both the stiffness and the fracture behavior can be improved at the same time - two properties that normally work in opposition to each other. Both effects combined make plastics measurably more durable, something that was not achievable with traditional fillers so far. At the same time, such properties as service temperature and impact resistance are improved, an advantage especially for under-the-hood applications.

Another possible application is rapid manufacturing, a layer by layer technology allowing rapid and cost-effective production of small series from plastic materials.

The project house researchers have also been successful in the area of scratch-resistant surfaces: for example, they have improved the scratch resistance of coil coatings by up to 20 percent. Coil coatings are used in a variety of applications including facade coatings for office buildings, shopping centers, and gas stations, and also used for household equipment such as microwaves, washing machines, and refrigerators.

"We will follow up on the initial positive market feedback and develop the technology further. This is now the task of our business units," said Dr. Spindler. The results are already having an impact on current developments, for example, the development of transparent modifications of PLEXIGLAS HEATSTOP®. Degussa is selectively exploiting the infrared absorption of nanomaterials to reduce heat transfer radiation.

In total, Degussa has invested some €100 million in nanomaterials research and development in the past few years.

New project house started for the next value-creation stage

Following the Nanomaterials Project House, which focused on the synthesis of new nanoparticles, and the Functional Polymers Project House, Degussa now embarks on the next step of the value chain. The new project house "Functional Films," located again at the Hanau-Wolfgang site, will be starting up shortly. Based on the findings of the Functional Polymers Project House and the expertise on film production already available within Degussa, the new project house will develop expertise in the area of production and modification of specialty functional films.

Examples of value-adding functionalities for mono- or multi-layered films are scratch resistance, electrical conductivity, dynamic optical effects as well as special barrier properties and nano- or microstructuring. The basic materials for such high performance films can originate from the existing Degussa portfolio of polymer materials as well as from the group of engineering plastics. The expertise on surface functionalization developed in the new project house is expected to be ultimately applied also to other polymer surfaces relevant to Degussa, such as polymer sheets. The planned duration of the project house is three years.

Degussa is the global market leader in specialty chemicals. Our business is creating essentials - innovative products and system solutions that make indispensable contributions to our customers' success. In fiscal 2005 around 44.000 employees worldwide generated sales of 11.8 billion euros and operating profits (EBIT) of 940 million euros.

Source: Degussa

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