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K 2013: Wacker, Lanxess and Celanese preview bio innovations

It will have escaped no one’s notice that 2013 is a “K year”: the year in which the nineteenth edition of the triennial K Show spectacle takes place in Düsseldorf, Germany. As always, the show is preceded by a veritable tsunami of announcements and information from companies showcasing novel developments and innovations, with “bio” still very much featuring as the trend du jour. Below, a look at the green news presented at the pre-K review in Düsseldorf earlier this month.

July 15, 2013

4 Min Read
K 2013: Wacker, Lanxess and Celanese preview bio innovations

It will have escaped no one’s notice that 2013 is a “K year”: the year in which the nineteenth edition of the triennial K Show spectacle takes place in Düsseldorf, Germany. As always, the show is preceded by a veritable tsunami of announcements and information from companies showcasing novel developments and innovations, with “bio” still very much featuring as the trend du jour.

Below, a look at the green news presented at the pre-K review in Düsseldorf earlier this month.

Wacker announced that it is launching an improved version of its Vinnex binder system. Vinnex is a vinyl-acetate-based polymer binder system that both acts as a compatibilizer and can be used to enhance the physical properties of bioplastics. Different Vinnex grades can be combined with one or more biopolyesters and fillers in a modular system, thus allowing manufacturers to develop high-performance bioplastic blends. These can be processed on conventional machines for standard conversion processes, with no modifications required, including hot-fill thermoforming applications. Selected grades of Vinnex are also certified for food applications, opening up possibilities for items like coffee cups and soup containers.

Lanxess emphasized its commitment to “Green Mobility” at the pre-K event, with management board member Werner Breuers calling it “One of the megatrends on which our strategy is based.” The company announced the addition of five new grades to its portfolio of “green” ethylene- propylene-diene elastomers (Keltan Eco) before the end of 2013. The five new grades are “drop-in” variants of conventional EPDM rubber grades from Lanxess that are already in widespread use. If all goes according to schedule, they will be commercially available in the second half of 2013. Lanxess said it was seeing clear signs of considerable interest in greener rubber solutions, which led to the decision to significantly expand the range of biobased Keltan Eco grades.
All five new Keltan Eco grades contain around 50% ethylene derived from Brazilian sugar cane.
Breuers also touched on the importance of R&D at Lanxess, recalling the company’s recent announcement of the successful conversion of bio-based butanediol into PBT in a commercial scale plant. “With technology from the sustainable chemicals company, Genomatica, we were able to replace petroleum-based BDO with bio-based BDO made from renewable feedstocks. This is an important step towards our future plans to offer increasingly more of our high-tech products based on innovative bio-based raw materials,” he said.
Other specifically bio-related research is reportedly taking place in the Lanxess High Performance Elastomers business unit, where researchers are investigating the use of Levapren, the ethylene-vinyl acetate rubber (EVM) made by Lanxess, as an impact-resistance modifier for PLA, aiming to reduce the brittleness of PLA.
EVM grades with a vinyl acetate content of around 50% have been found to be the best modifiers. Microscopic examination has revealed that Levapren 500 is distributed very evenly in the PLA matrix, making it more resilient. What's more, the rubber absorbs strong mechanical loads by forming small cavities in the Levapren domains. Jan Paul de Vries, head of the high-performance elastomers business unit noted, “Our initial findings show that EVM grades with medium vinyl acetate content, such as those contained in the Levapren portfolio, are particularly suitable for this application. In technical terms, it is very difficult for our competitors to gain access to such EVM grades.”

Celanese VP of sales - Europe, Middle East and Africa, Maria Ciliberti highlighted the materials innovations that will be on display at K 2013 in October. These will include novel applications for the company’s Clarifoil cast cellulose diacetate film, the biodegradable and compostable product, which the company has been producing since the 1940s, and which is now also available as a thermoform film for packaging.
When the rest of the industry switched to petroleum-based films in the 1970s, Celanese stuck with the original, renewably sourced (from cotton or wood pulp) material. The versatility of the film, which is manufactured in England, is still being explored, according to Ciliberti. “Its high clarity, combined with an ability to dissipate moisture makes it ideal for packaging warm (bakery) products such as doughnuts and muffins: the moisture simply goes right through the film, which retains its transparency. And the products don’t get soggy.” Found in applications ranging from anti-fogging laminate in ski goggles to shoe lace tagging, Celanese is touting the film as the environmentally friendly alternative to PVC and PET, with built-in advantages neither can provide. “Whether it’s used as the ‘window’ in the box, or as alternative insulation in trains, cellulose acetate film is a natural choice with unmatched sustainability credentials,” said Ciliberti.

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