A Look into Bayer's Involvement in Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is one of the most important key technologies of the 21st century. It does offer excellent opportunities for developing materials with completely new or radically improved characteristics, particularly in the field of polymer research. Bayer MaterialScience AG and Bayer Technology Services GmbH held a colloquium on nanocomposites on June 28, 2004, in Leverkusen. The aim was to provide a forum for employees to share knowledge of recent developments.

"Nanotechnology is a classic example of an interdisciplinary science," said Frank Bertram, who was involved in the organization of the event on behalf of Bayer MaterialScience. "Today more than ever, success in this arena requires a greater degree of communication and cooperation than is found in traditional research fields. That's why Bayer Technology Services and Bayer MaterialScience decided to bring together competencies from science, research and development, innovation management and industry in the Nanocomposites@Bayer Workshop. Nanoparticles are already being used in products from Bayer MaterialScience, and other profitable areas of application for nanoparticles are currently being explored in numerous R&D projects."

For these developments Bayer Technology Services is making a technology platform available. "We have a broad knowledge base when it comes to the production, modification and processing of nanoparticles. What's more, we have extensive expertise in characterizing nanoparticles," said Dr. Helmut Mothes of Bayer Technology Services. Both companies believe nanotechnology will be extremely important in the future. This focus on innovation also underlines the new Bayer slogan, "Science for a better life".

Around 150 participants attended the morning lecture session, where experts from universities, institutes and industry presented innovative developments and spoke about their experiences in industrial applications. Professor Rolf Mülhaupt from the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry at the University of Freiburg gave an overview of nanocompomers and nanohybrids, and provided examples of the development of such systems. Nanoparticle-reinforced plastics and their manufacture were the subject of a speech focussed on practical aspects given by Dr. Frank Haupert from the Institute for Composite Materials at the University of Kaiserslautern. Dr. Harald Häger from Degussa AG spoke about topical issues relating to the development of nanocomposites and also introduced Degussa's Functional Polymers project house, while Dr. Thomas Breiner from BASF AG addressed the audience on his company's activities in nanotechnology for thermoplastic materials. Finally, Dr. Christian Eger from Hanse-Chemie reported about possibilities for coatings formulation with nanoscale silicon dioxide particles.

The range of nanotechnology developments at Bayer itself is extremely diverse. A Group-wide Nanotechnology Working Group led by Dr. Harald Pielartzik was founded in December 2003 with the aim of coordinating these activities, making recommendations for appropriate research and identifying new business opportunities. The working group also functions as a skills and communication center for this field.

Nanotechnology@Bayer: Examples show the enormous variety of developments

In his presentation entitled "Nanotechnology@Bayer", Dr. Pielartzik provided an overview of Bayer's current activities. In particular, he gave examples of developments in the four current areas of nanotechnology research of Bayer MaterialScience and Bayer Technology Services.

In the area of nanofilms and nanocoatings, Bayer MaterialScience has developed Bayresit® VP LS 2331, a high-performance crosslinker for silane systems. With the help of sol-gel technology, it can be used in the formulation of highly crosslinked inorganic-organic coatings. One of their key features is exceptional resistance to scratches, abrasion, solvents and acids. The coatings also display strong anti-adhesive characteristics, making them ideal for use in easy-to-clean applications.

In the field of nanoparticles, nanoadditives and nanocomposites, one particularly impressive innovation is a nanoscale additive based on silicon dioxide particles, which imparts a higher initial wet strength to single-component, waterborne adhesives. The advantage for the processor is that it allows joined parts to be processed immediately which in turn leads to increased productivity. Furthermore, this additive, which Bayer MaterialScience is marketing under the name Dispercoll® S, enables the viscosity of the adhesive system to be precisely adjusted.

Nanophosphors are miniature versions of the light-emitting phosphors found in TV sets and fluorescent tubes. In the nanobiotechnology sector, these materials developed by Bayer Technology Services could in the future have an important role to play in the field of medical diagnosis. Nanoparticles doped with rare earth metals can "dock" onto viruses, bacteria or selected cells and make them visible thanks to their fluorescent light.

Turning to nanoelectronics, H.C. Starck GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bayer MaterialScience, has developed nanoscale polishing pastes based on metal oxides for the atom-precise fine polishing of conductor layers on silicon wafers. Thanks to their narrow particle size distribution and high surface functionality, Levasil® silica sols offer numerous advantages over colloidal silicon dioxide particles when it comes to the chemical mechanical planarization (CMP) of chips.

At a poster session in the afternoon, research groups representing both organizers provided information on various developments for nanocomposites. The topics covered ranged from flame retardants for thermoplastic materials and the synthesis of nanoparticles to nanoanalysis.

Bayer is also increasingly investing its expertise in external events relating to nanotechnology, e.g. at the kick-off event of the "Berliner Republik - Innovationsdialoge", on June 30, 2004, at the British Embassy. This dialog forum looked at the opportunities and risks presented by nanotechnology. Federal Minister for Education and Research Edelgard Bulmahn and leading representatives from industrial companies and associations, including Dr. Pielartzik, took part in a podium discussion.

For more information on nanotechnology, click here or visit www.azonano.com, The A to Z of Nanotechnology.

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