Degussa Starts New Project House

Degussa AG, Dusseldorf, has started its new Project House Process Intensification. Over the next three years, the company will invest €15 million in researching new process strategies and reactor designs that make production plants for specialty chemicals more flexible and allow new products to be developed.

The tools for this work include microprocess engineering, intensive dispersion technologies and modular plant and equipment engineering.

Located in Hanau-Wolfgang, the project house employs 15 chemists and engineers, and is managed by Degussa's Creavis Technologies & Innovation unit. "Project houses are an important tool for strengthening our innovative capabilities and ensuring our ability to compete," says Degussa Management Board Chairman Prof. Utz-Hellmuth Felcht. Cross-unit cooperation, a Degussa trademark, is also typical of their approach.

"In the Project House Process Intensification we look for innovative technologies that significantly boost production efficiency," explains Dr. Alfred Oberholz, Degussa Management Board Member in charge of research and development. The goals, as he puts it, are processes and plants that can be perfected in a shorter time and with minimal investment, and which allow capacities to be adapted flexibly to increasing demand.

Process Intensification also opens the door to innovative products that cannot be produced by conventional methods.

The Degussa project houses combine the expertise of several business units, and establish advanced technology platforms for the Group. In keeping with this proven research concept - Process Intensification is Degussa's sixth project house and follows Nanomaterials, Biotechnology, Catalysis, ProFerm, and Functional Polymers - the interdisciplinary team has three years to realize its plans.

Throughout its life, the project house will benefit from the know how of the seven participating business units, the Process Technology & Engineering Service Unit, and the Center of Excellence for Catalysis. Additionally, selected partnerships with universities and research institutes should guarantee access to current scientific knowledge and methods. Four focal points: highly active catalysts, functional materials, disperse systems and Chemical ExplorENG

The project house is developing process strategies for the three product fields of highly active catalysts, functional materials, and disperse systems. With functional materials, the project house employees are exploring new ways of encapsulating solids, polymerizing water-insoluble monomers, and manufacturing ultra-fine organic particles.

These types of materials can be used, for example, to make plastics more impact-resistant, or to obtain tunable adhesives that unleash their adhesive power at the push of a button and harden at the right moment. In the field of disperse systems, the scientists are researching alternative process routes for the manufacture of colorants, as well as new reactor designs for fermentation.

The fourth field, and the one that brings together the other three product fields, is Chemical ExplorENG, which consists of modular plant designs for manufacturing specialty chemicals - a type of unit construction system in which different plant parts are built at the same time and "fitted together" on site. The advantage is that it considerably reduces the time it takes to set up a plant, which means new products can reach the market faster.

Modular construction methods can also help lower the costs of expanding existing plants. In short, this single project house covers the entire technology value-added chain, from synthesis to finished plant.

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