22 August 1994 00:00 [Source: ICB]
HOECHST SHARES leapt 2.4% last week on news that the company had developed a material that destroys ozone. In what appeared a remarkable breakthrough, coinciding with a spate of publicity in Germany concerning the health hazards of low level ozone, Hoechst announced its new noXon material can remove ozone from air and water and convert it 100% into oxygen. What is more noXon can be regenerated for reuse in the same application.
The company declined to reveal the chemical nature of the new material, which could be offered in powder, fibre or woven form. A 'technical polymer', it is chemically oxidised by one of the three oxygens of the ozone molecule, with molecular oxygen as the other reaction product. A basic patent on the material, filed 18 months ago, is expected to be published at the end of this year; some 26 related patents have also been filed.
Somewhat playing down the initial euphoria, a Hoechst spokesman estimated sales could reach DM500m/year ($316m) in five to six years' time. Hoechst is currently producing the material in Frankfurt, on a pilot plant capable of producing 'a few hundred tonne per year', he explained. The company is working under secrecy cooperation agreements with a number of partner companies to develop products containing the new material. The first products could be brought to market by early 1996 - just three years on from initial discovery of the material's potential.
According to Hoechst, noXon is extremely easy to use: air contaminated with ozone simply needs to be passed, at room temperature, through a filter equipped with noXon. The ozone is immediately converted into oxygen, and cannot even be detected on the reverse side of the filter. Tests have shown that levels of up to 200g of ozone/m3 - well in excess of 1m times the German recommended ozone limit of 120µg/m3 - can be destroyed without any residue forming.
Hoechst envisages applications wherever people suffer from the effects of ozone. For example, the company suggests that filters equipped with noXon can be fitted to airconditioning systems for hospitals, schools and offices as well as in motor vehicles and aircraft.
One application close to market is an ozone scrubber material which is expected to help make ozone measurements more reproducible and more reliable. By completely filtering out the ozone from ambient air, a comparison with a sample of unfiltered ambient air will accurately reveal the ozone content, Hoechst says. The material, coded noXon S, is currently being tested in cooperation with environmental agencies and appliance manufacturers.
Hoechst claims also to have developed an inexpensive ozone sensor for use wherever ozone needs to be detected rapidly and accurately, with applications ranging from workplace environments to the monitoring of a noXon filter. Hoechst is also pursuing developments which do not involve airconditioning systems. It reports that combinations of noXon with activated carbon seem promising. If the filter is properly assembled, an improved effect against other pollutants, such as hydrocarbons, can be achieved.
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