Environmental Health & Safety

AkzoNobel Spurs Sustainability; Expands Capacity

Company's emphasis on eco-premium solutions drives innovation.

By Chemical Processing Staff

AkzoNobel has opened a new research laboratory in Deventer, the Netherlands, to spur innovations that bolster sustainability. Housing more than 200 researchers from the company's Research, Development and Innovation (RD&I) organization, the facility is one of a network of six global RD&I centers that host a combination of business-led R&D groups.

The network aims to ensure that at least 30% of sales will be derived from eco-premium solutions by 2015. According to the Amsterdam-based company, an eco-premium solution provides the same or better functionality for the customer application but has a clear eco-efficiency benefit over the mainstream products in the marketplace. AkzoNobel measures eco-efficiency in six categories: toxicity, energy efficiency, use of natural resources/raw materials, emissions and waste, land use, risks (e.g., accidents). The eco-premium solution must be significantly better in at least one criterion, and not worse in any.

Many innovations have already originated from the Deventer laboratories including the eco-premium product Dissolvine GL, a biodegradable chelating agent used for cleaning detergents; Perkalite, which acts as a flame-retardant; as well as chemical intermediates used in the production of adhesives, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

In other news, AkzoNobel is boosting capacity at its Stockvik, Sweden, site for its Expancel expandable microspheres to meet growing global demand.

The extra capacity is due to come on stream in early 2012. Part of the investment will also be used to further improve eco-efficiency at the facility and to implement several additional upgrades.

Expancel is made up of small thermoplastic spheres filled with gas. When the gas inside the shell is heated, its pressure increases and the shell softens, resulting in a dramatic increase in the volume of the spheres. When fully expanded, the volume of these spheres increases more than 50 times.
Used as a blowing agent or lightweight filler, the Expancel product line is continuing to find new applications in markets such as thermoplastics, printing inks, coatings and paper and board.

Some of the newest Expancel products include ultra-high-temperature microspheres for engineering plastics that reduce weight and save on expensive raw materials. Available in both unexpanded and expanded versions, more common applications include fillers for vehicle bodies, injection-molded PVC soles for footwear, tennis balls and wine bottle corks