(33a) Nanotechnology at Degussa - from Ideas to Actual Business | AIChE

(33a) Nanotechnology at Degussa - from Ideas to Actual Business


Riemenschneider, H. - Presenter, Degussa Corporation

Nanotechnology will form the foundation for revolutionary discoveries and advancements in the decades to come. It will profoundly influence the competitiveness of companies in every relevant industry. The chemical industry in particular is working on translating the potential of nanotechnology into products.

Degussa explored extensively the fundamentals of the particle formations and focused on the gas phase synthesis. As an outcome, there are valuable tools available to describe, characterize, and simulate the particle synthesis and formation. In addition, it is also possible to create nanoparticles by design. But the approach has to be described as a discovery-based science and product development.

Increasingly intense competition, the globalization of markets, and shorter innovation cycles in almost all branches of industry demand new solutions from the chemical industry. The pressure is on to innovate and create new products and to do so rapidly. The time span between invention and marketable product has to be shortened. To-date, unfortunately, the technological problems of nanotechnology are still handled separately from the application and product-related aspects. It is essential for successful product development to strengthen the link between basic research, selection of the appropriate technology, scale-up, and the development of industrial applications.

The new ?Science-to-Business" concept of Degussa aims to achieve a significant reduction in development time by tightly networking business and technology. All activities and resources ranging from basic research to product development and pilot production are pooled in special centers that not only house the equipment, laboratories and pilot plants for Degussa's strategic development activities, but also serve as a common working environment for collaboration between in-house and external partners.

Degussa is focusing on "Nanotronics" for its first Science-to-Business Center, the close interaction between nanotechnology and electronics. This project is partly financed by the European Union. Nanotronics was selected because the development of innovative system solutions based on nanomaterials for the electronic's industry promises to be a highly profitable business. The Science-to-Business Center Nanotronics will primarily develop electronic systems and elements whose core components consist of new types of electrically functional nanomaterials and nano-coatings. The wide range of applications includes printable electronics, low cost displays, flexible solar cells and mobile energy systems.

For example, for the production of displays, cost-effective alternatives are being sought to sputtered transparent conducting oxides. Custom-tailored nanoparticles from Degussa have the potential to significantly reduce costs and improve performance of the transparent electrodes. This ambitious goal can be realized through a combination of new printing inks and dispersions, and special printing techniques such as roll-to-roll processes. The combination of Degussa's research results and know-how, together with technology from the coatings and electronics industries, should speed up the creation of new products.

With the SEPARION® battery separator, Degussa has developed a new type of ceramic membrane that improves the performance of large-volume lithium-ion batteries and makes them safer. These are essential factors if lithium-ion batteries are to be used more extensively in modern electric and hybrid electric vehicles. In view of the abundance of market opportunities, Degussa has already considerably expanded its capacity. Up to 3 million square meters of separator film can now be produced each year. In addition to SEPARION® separators, Degussa develops new high-performance anode and cathode materials for lithiumion batteries based on nanomaterials, as well as safe new electrolytes, for example those based on ionic liquids.

Chemistry and nanotechnology are both cross-functional technologies; the most important success factor is interdisciplinary networking. Strong collaboration with academic institutions and industry is a cornerstone of Degussa's philosophy. Every element of the process chain will be modeled from basic development through to the final application. With the Science-to-Business concept, Degussa is finding new ways of integrating business and technology, thus enhancing competitiveness and innovative strength. The new concept of integral system development will be indispensable for creation of new specialty chemical applications. The Nanotronics Science-to-Business Center is the first step for Degussa toward new and more efficient forms of collaboration between business and technology.