Arkema Sustainability Additives interview

There have been quite a few interviews and several conferences this year that I was not able to post in the blog due to schedule and deadline constraint. I’m hoping to catch up eventually this summer and I’ll start with Arkema’s new Sustainability Additives Group.

The Americas business of French chemical company Arkema officially formed its Sustainability Additives group based in Philadelphia in September 2008 under the company’s Functional Additives division.

My interview with the group’s general manager, Antonis Papadourakis, resulted an interesting overview of the group’s strategies and their definition of sustainability, which according to him, is “the use of methods, systems and materials that won’t deplete resources or harm natural cycles.”

“We will develop additives solutions for our targeted markets, based on our core technologies (radical generation and control, polymer & material modification, and chemical vapor deposition) that will lead to more efficient use of resources and energy, help manage or create less waste, extend life of existing products and help develop/grow new products to harness new/renewable sources of energy and materials.”

The group is targeting three end-markets to date: Packaging and Healthcare; Energy, Building & Construction; and Automotive & Initiation. A lot of the products the group sell are still not classified as sustainable additives but Papadourakis said most of their R&D will focus on developing new products under this category.

By 2012, the group’s goal is to convert 25% of their product portfolio (from the current 15%) under this sustainability definition.

“Majority of our developments are focused on renewable resources either targeting energy or materials,” says Papadourakis. “In the non-renewable area, we are focusing on the concepts of less waste and [or] less use of raw materials.”

One interesting development that caught my attention during the interview is Arkema’s controlled radical polymerization technology in vinyl esters resins. Arkema says its new Luperox® IS 300, an organic peroxide initiator just introduced early this year, is designed to speed up the infusion of large composite parts such as wind blades or even composite beams for highways or bridges, using lower cost vinyl ester resins as opposed to using epoxy resins.

Now you might ask why this is sustainable? Papadourakis explains that this particular technology could lower the cost of wind blade production, which in turn could drive more enthusiasm for wind energy projects. Makes sense.

In the photovoltaic area, Arkema’s Sustainability Additives group also claims that they have the leading position in marketing organic peroxides in solar cell encapsulant application. This video from Arkema explains the necessity of chemical technology in solar energy production:

Finally, Arkema’s Papadourakis also pointed out their growing R&D in bioplastics. The company is already producing castor oil-based plastics for several product applications but the group recently launched several additives to make polylactic acid (PLA)-based plastic processing more economical. Here are some of their newly launched products for PLA processing:

Arkema Introduces New PLA Processing Lubricant

Arkema Introduces New PLA Melt Strength Enhancer

Papadourakis said that they are doing a lot of work to improve PLA’s properties to expand its applications. Arkema is currently working with US-based PLA producer NatureWorks and their customers.

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