ICIS chemical innovation award entries

Innovation Awards: the final cut

30 July 2007 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Who are the world's most innovative companies? They're lining up to be judged by the industry's brightest luminaries. Will cool leather win over instant steam in this year's ICIS Innovation Awards?   

JOHN BAKER/LONDON

ONLY THROUGH innovation - the successful commercialization of research and development - can companies protect their margins, defend existing business and develop new offerings for the market.

So it's good to see that this year's ICIS Innovation Awards, sponsored for the fourth year running by Dow Corning, have brought in a crop of innovations from across the chemical industry and from around the globe. And, as in previous years, we have had entries from the largest chemical companies and the smallest of operations.

It's also good to see companies from Malaysia, the Philippines, China and Iran joining in the awards, as well as those from the US and Canada, Japan, and a range of European countries. It certainly illustrates there are no bounds to where innovation takes place in our truly global industry.

The common theme is the sector's drive to innovate - to bring new processes and products to market and offer customers benefits in terms of costs, problem solving and more environmentally friendly products. Since the entry deadline of July 2, the panel of well qualified judges (see sidebar) has been assessing the entries and scoring them on a range of criteria, including commercial impact - meaning actual or potential impact on sales, profit or intellectual property assets the novelty of the discovery the potential to generate value or benefit for customers or society the use of sound scientific or technical methods and how difficult the problem was to solve and the degree of collaboration involved.

Those entries selected for the final round, each outlined here, will be considered at a meeting of the judges early in September, and the winners announced on October 15 in a special supplement to ICIS Chemical Business.

As in previous years, there are four categories: best product innovation best process innovation best innovation by a small or medium-sized enterprise and innovation with the best environmental impact.

As we noticed last year, interest in this last category is fading, with companies preferring to enter the product or process categories. But this does not imply that the innovations are less green than in previous years .

I hope these awards continue to prompt fresh thinking in the industry and help stimulate new ideas and innovations.

The main goal is to celebrate achievements and stress the importance of innovation to the chemical industry and its sustainable future. I hope you agree we succeed in this. Please let me have any comments on the awards or innovation at john.baker@icis.com.

BE PROUD OF INNOVATION

Has your company demonstrated supply chain and logistics superiority? Do you continuously upgrade your product quality and manufacturing efficiency or use customer satisfaction and the numbers of new ideas as ways to measure your success? Is the company managed in a way that enables employees to challenge traditional thinking and stretch their abilities?

If your answer is "yes" to all of these questions, you can feel proud of your dedication to being an innovative company. While many businesses still narrowly define innovation in terms of creativity or research and development spending, true innovators maintain a broader, more holistic view.

Key to this approach is an open, collaborative, and supportive culture, starting at the top of an organization. By creating a climate that gives people the flexibility to experiment and take risks, to create and reinvent, to learn and share, truly innovative companies align employees' efforts with business strategy and goals, equipping them with the skills and tools they need.

Innovative companies focus on how they can enhance their customers' experience. They listen to customers, partners, industry analysts, and even competitors to develop a steady flow of new ideas, redefine market opportunities, and expand into new geographies.

This outside-in approach helps companies identify emerging trends and compete at a global level, yet remain sensitive and adaptable to the needs and opportunities in local markets around the world. This ensures that every level of the company is empowered to innovate in its own way - whether that is to think about a product or service in a different way or to design a new process or market approach.

At Dow Corning, we are broadening our approach to innovation continuously looking at how we can reinvent ourselves - even when we are successful.

Dr. Stephanie Burns, chairman, president and CEO, Dow CorningI'm delighted to see this happening elsewhere in the chemical industry and that many of you are also embracing innovation -thinking differently about our business challenges and how our knowledge of technological, societal, and environmental trends can benefit our customers.

Today, in partnership with ICIS Chemical Business, we want to recognize and celebrate the ingenuity of companies that are driving forward with new and innovative approaches that can keep our industry thriving.

Dr. Stephanie Burns, chairman, president and CEO, Dow Corning

 

Categories and entries:

BEST PROCESS INNOVATION

Asahi Kasei/Asahi Kasei Chemicals

Shinsuke Fukuoka, Kyosuke Komiya and Shigenori Konno

A novel nonphosgene polycarbonate (PC) production process using by-product carbon dioxide (CO2) as starting material

Asahi has developed what it claims is the first green, sustainable process for producing an aromatic PC from CO2 instead of carbon monoxide, and without using phosgene and ethylene dichloride (EDC). In Asahi's new process, ethylene oxide (EO), CO2 and bisphenol A are reacted to produce PC, a widely used thermoplastic resin, and high-purity ethylene glycol (EG).

The researchers had to overcome several problems and have developed a highly effective recycle-type reactive distillation process for the monomer production step and new gravity-driven, nonagitating vertical polymerization equipment. The new process avoids handling phosgene, produces a chlorine-free polymer and avoids large quantities of wastewater. The process is now in use in Taiwan, in a joint ChiMei/Asahi plant, and has been licensed to projects in Russia, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Bayer Material Science

Klaus Biskup, Christian Six, Peter Fuhrmann,

Wolfgang Taube, Wilfried Pinke, Rainer Bruns

TDI gas-phase phosgenation technology

Conventional routes to toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) usually use a liquid-phase final process step, with highly diluted solutions requiring long residence times. Bayer MaterialScience has developed a gas-phase approach to react the pure components at 300°C (572°F), without any dilution of the crude product, which is then condensed and purified by distillation. The main benefits are an 80% reduction in solvent use and a 40-60% saving in energy use. Investment costs for a worldscale facility are reduced by 20%.

The main challenges were the evaporation of an amine and invention of a suitable nozzle to mix the reactants. The technology leap, says Bayer, was only possible as a result of interdisciplinary work involving chemistry and kinetics to material engineering, flow simulations and equipment design. Bayer is building a 300,000 tonne/year plant in China, after proving the process in a 30,000 tonne/year pilot facility in Germany.

Hercules, Paper Technologies and Ventures/Carbury Herne/University of Kent, UK

Richard Riehle et al (Hercules), David Hardman (Carbury Herne), Alan Bull and Paul Sallis (University of Kent)

Biodehalogenation for the manufacture of Kymene G3 X-Cel wet-strength resin

Specialty resins known as polyaminopolyamide-epichlorohydrins (PAEs) are used in papermaking to impart wet strength to tissues, towels and food-grade papers. These resins can contain by-products such as 1,3-dichloropropanol (DCP) and 3-chloropropanediol (CPD) that are toxic and are increasingly being targeted by regulators as undesirable in food contact uses.

Hercules' Paper Technologies and Ventures has developed a third generation technology that can eliminate such impurities in a post-manufacture treatment step. This uses a caustic treatment, followed by a microbial dehalogenation step that converts DCP and CPD into CO2 and salt. The preferred micro-organisms are a mixture of Arthrobacter histidinolovorans and Agrobacterium radiobacter, which are isolated from soil. Two European plants are now making the innovative PAE resins (Kymene G3 X-Cel) using the new technology.

BEST PRODUCT INNOVATION

BASF

Uwe Fidorra, Juan Antonio Gonzalez-Gomez, Michaela Muller-Halanke, Hansulrich Reisacher and Karin Wagner

Xfast - stir-in pigments for decorative coatings

Color tinting of base paints is a standard approach to producing a wide range of shades, both at the coatings manufacturer and in retail outlets. But liquid or paste tints are used conventionally to add to the binder systems, which are difficult to produce and require specialized equipment that requires cleaning and can clog.

BASF has developed a dry, low-dusting powder additive that can be added accurately by weight to aqueous binder systems. The Xfast products can be used in production plants or for in-can tinting at point-of-sale in home improvement and retail outlets. The good dispersability and feedability of the granules enables tinting even of small volumes. The granules are hollow spheres that form rapidly without becoming lumpy and are solvent-free.

Hercules, Paper Technologies and Ventures

Qu-Ming Gu, William Kochanik, Kevin Brennan, Jeffrey Cortese and Zu-Feng Xu

Effective control of organic contaminants in pulp and papermaking applications employing protein

Deposition of organic contaminants, known as pitch or stickies, on the surfaces of pulp and papermaking machinery, or in the paper produced, are detrimental to both the efficiency and quality of the papermaking process. Recent moves to use more recycled fiber are causing a dramatic increase in this problem and Hercules has developed an improved approach to help remove such contaminants.

Researchers looked at naturally occurring proteins and found that globular proteins such as those found in whey protein, isolated as a by-product in production of cheese, were particularly effective. These proteins are characterized by having a hydrophobic core and a hydrophilic shell. It is postulated that they function by interacting with the hydrophobic portion of the contaminant to enhance the stability and modify the surface to reduce adhesion.

Hercules has now patented the technology and is marketing it as a DeTac DC720D pitch and stickies control product. Major features include no APEs, NPEs or SARA 313 components, low volatile organic content, and the fact that customers can reduce or even eliminate solvent washing for the removal of contaminants.

TFL Ledertechnik/IPS Innovations

Juergen Christner (TFL) and Gerd Hugo (IPS)

Solar reflective (cool) leather

Wearing dark leather clothes can be uncomfortable in the sun, as the material warms up significantly by absorbing the sun's rays. Dark leather in automotive seating can also heat up and become less comfortable. But an innovation from Switzerland-based TFL Ledertechnik prevents this warming effect and is now being marketed under the brand name of Cool.

The patented technology consists of a range of Cool dyes to dye the leather and Cool transparent pigments for the finish coat. The Cool pigments do not absorb near-infrared (NIR) waves but let them pass through the finish coat. The leather's natural collagen then reflects the NIR rays back through the finish coat, without any absorption and thus without heat build-up. The Cool dyes also show good NIR reflection and, says TFL, only the combination of dyes and pigments will guarantee the optimum reflectance and thus the best solar reflective performance, so motorcyclists can be even cooler now! TFL is also aiming the technology at shoes, other garments and leather seating.

 BEST INNOVATION BY A SMALL OR MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISE

Carotech

Weng-Hoong Leong

Integrated process for extraction and con-centration of phytonutrients and production of biodiesel from virgin crude palm oil

Malaysian company Carotech claims to have the first and largest integrated plant for the commercial extraction of tocotrienol, mixed carotenes and phytosterols from crude palm oil, using its US-patented technology. These products are used in dietary supplements, functional foods and drinks, as well as cosmetic applications. The process also allows Carotech to produce two other coproducts: methyl ester (CaroDiesel) and glycerin.

The technology allows the full utilization of the crude palm oil and produces minimal waste. The company had to overcome several problems - developing the first molecular distillation plant in Malaysia and mastering production issues such as achieving ultrahigh vacuum operation in a large-scale commercial plant. It also had to dispel a lack of awareness of tocotrienols among customers and convince legislators to accept them as a form of vitamin E, with health benefits. Further developments are under way, including a patented self-emulsifying delivery system for tocotrienol, to boost absorption into blood plasma.

Oxford Catalysts

Chika Chukwuogo and Sharon Burns

Instant steam generation

Oxford Catalysts has developed a novel chemical method of producing steam, from 100°C up to 800°C and at high pressures, directly and instantaneously from a liquid fuel mixture. By introducing a liquid fuel to a solid catalyst, the steam is raised without a pressurized boiler or post-boiler superheater. The company sees the technology being used in cleaner, more efficient engines, household and industrial cleaning systems and food processing.

The advantages are: instantaneous steam production from room temperature high temperature and/or high pressure no external flame or external heat source required, the process is easily scaled up or down, and the equipment is safe and portable. The researchers had to address two main challenges: energy conservation and heat dispersion in the catalyst bed. As the reaction is highly exothermic, efficient methods had to be developed to ensure the energy produced the maximum amount of steam and to allow the steam temperature to be adjusted as required.

HallStar

Craig Bonda, Anna Pavlovic, Steve Semlow and Jean Zhang

Polycrylene - A new polymeric for broad spectrum sunscreens

The search for more effective sunscreens is intense as the adverse health effects of sunburn are better understood. Hallstar has made a significant contribution with its development of polycrylene, a patented photostabilizer that works with UVA filter avobenzone to lengthen the life of this active sunscreen product.

Avobenzone is widely used to filter out UVA wavelength light (around 320-400nm), but the organic compound loses efficacy with increasing exposure to sunlight. Polycrylene stabilizes the compound by accepting and dissipating its excited-state energy, making it work better and longer.

Polycrylene is a low-molecular-weight copolymer of adipic acid and neopentyl glycol, terminated with cyanodiphenyl propenoic acid or, to a small extent, octyldodecanol. It is a viscous yellow liquid that is oil soluble. The molecule has a peak absorbance at 303nm, due to the cyanodiphenyl propenoate moiety. It is used in sunscreens at around 2-5% and is nonirritating and nonsensitizing on the skin. 

 INNOVATION WITH BEST ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

Degussa Specialty Acrylics,

RohMax Oil Additives unit

Christian Neveu, Doug Placek, Steven Herzog, Klaus Hedrich, Michael Alibert

Maximum efficiency hydraulic fluid

Researchers at RohMax, part of Degussa's specialty acrylics unit, developed a mathematical model for the internal pump leakage (inefficiency) in fluid power systems. The findings from the model have made it possible to improve substantially the efficiency of hydraulic power systems by specifying the most appropriate fluid that combines the right mix of high-viscosity index and high stability to mechanical sheer.

Efficiency improvements of 10-25% have been achieved, translating into energy savings of 10%, which also means reduced emissions of greenhouse gas CO2 and particulate pollution. Through the innovation, Degussa expects to see enhanced sales of its high viscosity index polymer-treated hydraulic fluids in the global market. For customers, there are benefits in reduced fuel consumption, and for equipment makers, there is the benefit of being able to design smaller, more compact hydraulic pumps and motors that can do the work of their larger counterparts.

Rhodia

A. Greiner, G. Forat, L. Gilbert, L. Saint-Jalmes, V. Pevere, M. Casado, P. Leroy, S. Ferlut, A. Millet, B. Besson, J. Desrayaud and F. Metz

Fipronil made by a CFC-free process

Fipronil is a broad spectrum insecticide used widely in agrochemical and veterinary applications. The active molecule carries a trifluoromethylsulphoxide on a pyrazole moiety. The conventional production route involves use of dimethylformamide (DMF) as a solvent, and the reaction of a disulphide intermediate with trifluorobromomethane (CF3Br) in the presence of HCO2Na and catalytic amounts SO2, to produce trifluoromethylated sulphide. The sulphide is then reacted to sulphoxide with hydrogen peroxide in trifluoroacetic acid.

Although efficient, this has three drawbacks: use of the greenhouse gas CF3Br use of DMF, now classified as a carcinogen, mutagenic and reprotoxic and use of H2O2 in CF3CO2H solvent, which is a corrosive and harmful medium.

Rhodia has overcome these issues with a single step reaction to introduce the trifluoromethylsulphoxide, using a triflinate salt with thionyl chloride in the presence of pyrazole A. This eliminates the use of the problem chemicals, contributing to sustainable development in the chemical sector.

THE JUDGES

ICIS has assembled a panel of eminent judges for this year's awards

Dr. Gregg Zank is vice president, chief technology officer and executive director of science and technology at awards sponsor Dow Corning

Professor Dr. Michael Droescher is senior vice president, corporate innovation, at Degussa

Mark Humphriesis a partner in the engineering physics group and a member of PA Technology's management group

Dr. Dirk Carrezis director of public policy at EuropaBio and head of its industrial biotechnology council

Professor Paul O'Brien is professor of inorganic materials chemistry at the University of Manchester

 For further information go to www.icis.com/awards or email: john.baker@icis.com





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