Renewable Resources Drive Pilot Developments

Efforts target biofuels as well as advanced coatings and materials.

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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A pilot plant at the Enshede site is making the new tie-layer resin, which is based on the company's existing Yparex brand resin. Van den Berg refuses to divulge any process details or the scale of the pilot plant.

The new polymer is the first of what the company hopes will become a growing family of bio-based "green" tie-layer grades that will appeal to manufacturers who are keen to reduce carbon footprints and offer more sustainable products.

"We are shipping our first lot of green Yparex Renew resin to an innovative film producer this month (September) for evaluation," he adds.

COATINGS CENTER
BASF, Ludwigshafen, Germany, also is targeting adhesive coatings with the addition of a pilot coating and laminating plant at its Center of Competence for Adhesive Coatings in Ludwigshafen.

The new plant will facilitate development of adhesive systems for flexible packaging, labels, tapes and functional film coatings. It increases capacity for customer tests and speeds up development of new products as well as adaption of existing adhesive formulations to new carrier materials.

"The universal laboratory coater produces exact reproducible coatings of water-based and UV acrylate hot-melt systems, only requiring a minimum quantity of one kilo of adhesive. The pre-treatment and lamination of a variety of film combinations is possible without any problems," says Jürgen Pfister, head of dispersions for adhesives and fiber bonding Europe.

BASF is claiming a new world record for its pilot coater, which has reached a coating speed of 1,800 m/minute (Figure 2). The company plans to invest nearly €1 million ($1.26 million) annually to further develop the technology.

BASF also plans to continue joint work with Heidelberger Druckmaschinen, Heidelberg, and the Technical University Darmstadt, Germany, following the successful conclusion of the first phase of the so-called NanoPEP (nanostructuring and plastic electronics print platform) project. The effort, which started in the summer of 2009, has focused on using nano-based functional materials to generate technologies for applications such as organic circuits, photovoltaic storage devices and organic LEDs.

Specially designed nanoparticles serve as building blocks for functional materials created by new process technologies in a tool-box-like system. A subsequent step transforms these materials into printable suspensions. The researchers rely on innovative hybrid materials consisting of inorganic and organic components to achieve perfect electronic functionality in the printed film without the need for intermediate process steps such as stabilization of the materials.

The team has successfully operated a pilot plant capable of producing 1-kg batches of materials. The next phase of the NanoPEP project will be a two-year project to transfer the processes involved to an industrial scale.

NEW MATERIALS INITIATIVE
BP, London, also is ratcheting up efforts to develop new materials. The company is investing $100 million in a new BP International Centre for Advanced Materials (BP-ICAM).

Based at the University of Manchester, U.K., BP-ICAM will draw on expertise from other academic institutions including the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

The ten-year program focuses on seven primary areas, but new structural materials such as composites that are suitable for high-pressure and high-temperature process applications are getting top priority. Pilot facilities at the University of Manchester likely will play a central part in this work.

"Advanced materials and coatings will be vital in finding, producing and processing energy safely and efficiently in the years ahead, as energy producers work at unprecedented depths, pressures and temperatures, and as refineries, manufacturing plants and pipeline operators seek ever better ways to combat corrosion and deploy new materials to improve their operations," notes Bob Dudley, group chief executive, in explaining the company's strategy.

 


Seán Ottewell is Chemical Processing's Editor at Large. You can e-mail him at sottewell@putman.net.

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