Monday, July 11, 2011

Solvay to build large specialty polymers production plant in China

 Solvay announced it has launched a project to build a specialty polymers production plant for SOLEF® Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF), Tecnoflon® Fluoroelastomers (FKM) and their essential monomer VF2 in China to satisfy the growing demand for these high value-added specialty polymers in Asia.

The plant will be built at Solvay's industrial site in Changshu in the province of Jiangsu and is scheduled to become operational at the beginning of 2014. It requires the investment of EUR 120 million and will significantly boost Solvay's global production capacity for these specialty polymers.

The new plant in Changshu will be built next to the compounding plant under construction for Amodel® polyphthalamide (PPA), Ixef® polyarylamide (PARA) and Kalix® (modified PARA) which is scheduled to become operational in the last quarter of 2012.

"This new production plant will enable Solvay to capture a part of the huge growth potential in this exciting and dynamic region. We'll bring our customers more high value-added polymers which will help them improve their environmental footprint and sustainability profile," comments Jacques van Rijckevorsel, Group General Manager of Solvay's Plastics Sector and member of the Executive Committee.


New technology makes textiles permanently germ-free

 A University of Georgia researcher has invented a new technology that can inexpensively render medical linens and clothing, face masks, paper towels -- and yes, even diapers, intimate apparel and athletic wear, including smelly socks -- permanently germ-free.

The simple and inexpensive anti-microbial technology works on natural and synthetic materials. The technology can be applied during the manufacturing process or at home, and it doesn't come out in the wash. Unlike other anti-microbial technologies, repeated applications are unnecessary to maintain effectiveness.

"The spread of pathogens on textiles and plastics is a growing concern, especially in healthcare facilities and hotels, which are ideal environments for the proliferation and spread of very harmful microorganisms, but also in the home," said Jason Locklin, the inventor, who is an assistant professor of chemistry in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and on the Faculty of Engineering.

The anti-microbial treatment invented by Locklin, which is available for licensing from the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc., effectively kills a wide spectrum of bacteria, yeasts and molds that can cause disease, break down fabrics, create stains and produce odors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one of every 20 hospitalized patients will contract a healthcare-associated infection. Lab coats, scrub suits, uniforms, gowns, gloves and linens are known to harbor the microbes that cause patient infections.

Consumers' concern about harmful microbes has spurred the market for clothing, undergarments, footwear and home textiles with antimicrobial products. But to be practical, both commercial and consumer anti-microbial products must be inexpensive and lasting.

"Similar technologies are limited by cost of materials, use of noxious chemicals in the application or loss of effectiveness after a few washings," said Gennaro Gama, UGARF senior technology manager. "Locklin's technology uses ingeniously simple, inexpensive and scalable chemistry."

Gama said the technology is simple to apply in the manufacturing of fibers, fabrics, filters and plastics. It also can bestow antimicrobial properties on finished products, such as athletic wear and shoes, and textiles for the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.

"The advantage of UGARF's technology over competing methods," said Gama, "is that the permanent antimicrobial can be applied to a product at any point of the manufacture-sale-use continuum. In contrast, competing technologies require blending of the antimicrobial in the manufacturing process."

"In addition," said Gama, "If for some reason the antimicrobial layer is removed from an article -- through abrasion, for example -- it can be reapplied by simple spraying."

Other markets for the anti-microbial technology include military apparel and gear, food packaging, plastic furniture, pool toys, medical and dental instrumentation, bandages and plastic items.

Locklin said the antimicrobial was tested against many of the pathogens common in healthcare settings, including staph, strep, E. coli, pseudomonas and acetinobacter. After just a single application, no bacterial growth was observed on the textile samples added to the culture -- even after 24 hours at 37 degrees Celsius.

Moreover, in testing, the treatment remained fully active after multiple hot water laundry cycles, demonstrating the antibacterial does not leach out from the textiles even under harsh conditions. "Leaching could hinder the applicability of this technology in certain industrial segments, such as food packaging, toys, IV bags and tubing, for example," said Gama.

Thin films of the new technology also can be used to change other surface properties of both cellulose- and polymer-based materials. "It can change a material's optical properties -- color, reflectance, absorbance and iridescence -- and make it repel liquids, all without changing other properties of the material," said Gama.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations ) from materials provided by University of Georgia.

Journal Reference:

Vikram P Dhende, Satyabrata Samanta, David M Jones, Ian R. Hardin, Jason Locklin. One-Step Photochemical Synthesis of Permanent, Nonleaching, Ultrathin Antimicrobial Coatings for Textiles and Plastics. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2011; : 110621093431069 DOI: 10.1021/am200324f

Borealis to close two melamine low pressure plants in Linz

 Borealis has decided to shut down two melamine low pressure plants with an overall capacity of 30 kilotonnes (kt) per year at its site in Linz, Austria. The 10 kt production plant was decommissioned already in January 2010, whilst the second plant with a capacity of 20 kt will follow on June 27.

Continuous investments to improve the efficiency of the state-of-the-art melamine high pressure plants are made within the scope of the EUR 145 million investment project for the production site in Linz. These measures sustainably compensate a large portion of the capacity closure by introducing modern technology. The decision process has been accelerated due to the need for major investments in the melamine low pressure plants, as such investments in low pressure technologies do not pay off in Europe. Borealis will continue to supply its customers with the same reliability and quality as before from its sites in Linz, Austria and Piesteritz, Germany.

Major customers have announced to switch their production to high pressure melamine. Customers who can only use low pressure melamine will continued being supplied at optimum levels through the remaining low pressure melamine production plant with a capacity of 20 kt. Logistics and warehousing have been optimised internally to secure timely deliveries to our customers.

“This decision is a major milestone on our mission to improve our competitiveness in a global business environment,” explains Markku Korvenranta, Executive Vice President Base Chemicals, Borealis. “Our clearly defined goal to focus on sustainable market leadership in Europe will strengthen Borealis’ position through quality, delivery service and cost competitiveness.”


‘Cling-film’ solar cells could lead to advance in renewable energy

ScienceDaily (July 8, 2011) — A scientific advance in renewable energy which promises a revolution in the ease and cost of using solar cells, has been announced. A new study shows that even when using very simple and inexpensive manufacturing methods -- where flexible layers of material are deposited over large areas like cling-film -- efficient solar cell structures can be made.

The study, published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials, paves the way for new solar cell manufacturing techniques and the promise of developments in renewable solar energy. Scientists from the Universities of Sheffield and Cambridge used the ISIS Neutron Source and Diamond Light Source at STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire to carry out the research.

Plastic (polymer) solar cells are much cheaper to produce than conventional silicon solar cells and have the potential to be produced in large quantities. The study showed that when complex mixtures of molecules in solution are spread onto a surface, like varnishing a table-top, the different molecules separate to the top and bottom of the layer in a way that maximises the efficiency of the resulting solar cell.

Dr Andrew Parnell of the University of Sheffield said, "Our results give important insights into how ultra-cheap solar energy panels for domestic and industrial use can be manufactured on a large scale. Rather than using complex and expensive fabrication methods to create a specific semiconductor nanostructure, high volume printing could be used to produce nano-scale (60 nano-meters) films of solar cells that are over a thousand times thinner than the width of a human hair. These films could then be used to make cost-effective, light and easily transportable plastic solar cell devices such as solar panels."

Dr. Robert Dalgliesh, one of the ISIS scientists involved in the work, said, "This work clearly illustrates the importance of the combined use of neutron and X-ray scattering sources such as ISIS and Diamond in solving modern challenges for society. Using neutron beams at ISIS and Diamond's bright X-rays, we were able to probe the internal structure and properties of the solar cell materials non-destructively. By studying the layers in the materials which convert sunlight into electricity, we are learning how different processing steps change the overall efficiency and affect the overall polymer solar cell performance. "

"Over the next fifty years society is going to need to supply the growing energy demands of the world's population without using fossil fuels, and the only renewable energy source that can do this is the Sun," said Professor Richard Jones of the University of Sheffield. " In a couple of hours enough energy from sunlight falls on the Earth to satisfy the energy needs of the Earth for a whole year, but we need to be able to harness this on a much bigger scale than we can do now. Cheap and efficient polymer solar cells that can cover huge areas could help move us into a new age of renewable energy."

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

Journal Reference:

Paul A. Staniec, Andrew J. Parnell, Alan D. F. Dunbar, Hunan Yi, Andrew J. Pearson, Tao Wang, Paul E. Hopkinson, Christy Kinane, Robert M. Dalgliesh, Athene M. Donald, Anthony J. Ryan, Ahmed Iraqi, Richard A. L. Jones, David G. Lidzey. The Nanoscale Morphology of a PCDTBT:PCBM Photovoltaic Blend. Advanced Energy Materials, 2011; DOI: 10.1002/aenm.201100144

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Tunnel view of how electrons play

Electrons behave like football teams: the match becomes interesting when the teamwork is as good as that conjured up by the players of FC Barcelona. Electrons which interact strongly with each other give rise to superconductivity, the lossless transport of current, for example. A team headed by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden is now taking a completely new look at the teamwork between electrons. They have used a scanning tunnelling microscope to investigate the Kondo effect in the metal ytterbium rhodium silicide YbRh2Si2, which contains unpaired electrons and thus magnetic moments. At low temperatures, the strong interactions between the electrons completely shield the magnetic moments from each other. The Dresden-based physicists have now observed how this shielding is created. Their work also shows how well electronic processes in solids can be investigated with scanning tunnelling microscopes.

Events in solid bodies only become interesting when the temperature drops far below freezing, as the atoms then oscillate more slowly and interfere less with the motion of the electrons. The charge carriers therefore experience the forces between each other much more intensely and become aware that they have completely different possibilities apart from conducting electricity or not conducting it. In order to gain a better understanding of the electronic processes in solids, which are the basis of chip technology, communications and modern medical engineering, physicists also investigate the extraordinary effects that electrons in solids display at low temperatures. In future, this understanding may possibly help to produce materials with new properties that may be interesting for technical developments.

“With our current work, we are opening a door that provides us with a completely new way of accessing a large number of electronic phenomena in solids,” says Steffen Wirth, who headed the study. The investigation involved not only the researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids, but also scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems, also in Dresden, and the Technical University Braunschweig. The team investigated the metal ytterbium rhodium silicide YbRh2Si2 with a scanning tunnelling microscope as they slowly cooled down the metal.

Physicists also call the material heavy fermion metal; they often talk of fermions when they mean certain properties of electrons. The charged particles are naturally very light but become heavy as a result of the extraordinary effects that are based on the strong interplay of the electrons. The main players here are unpaired localized electrons, i.e. electrons which are firmly bound to the rare earth metal ytterbium. These electrons can occupy any of four groups of 4f orbitals, each with a different shape, assist with the transport of current in the material and have magnetic moments – these are the properties that arouse physicists’ interest.

The Dresden-based researchers have now shown that the interplay between the localized 4f electrons and the freely moving conduction electrons of the material can be observed with a scanning tunnelling microscope. This reveals a great deal about the causes of the effects, and thus about the physical laws in such materials.

The investigation involves positioning the tip of the microscope above a sample surface made up of very well ordered silicon atoms situated one next to the other (see Background: Purity law for a sample surface). The researchers then measure how the tunnelling current depends on the voltage applied at different temperatures. The more they cool the sample, the more marked is the appearance of several peaks and a deep dip in the current-voltage curve. These peaks and troughs in the measured current tell the researchers what happens to the electrons in the material. It is not always easy to interpret the characteristics in the current-voltage curve, however.

“We can unequivocally assign the three peaks which occur at distinct energies,” says Steffen Wirth. Thus at – 17, – 27 and – 43 millivolts relatively large numbers of electrons tunnel from the sample to the microscope tip. These voltages correspond to energies where the electrons collect more or less in bands. The bands are caused by the crystal field splitting: if the 4f electrons of the ytterbium choose to occupy those orbital groups of the four possible ones where they avoid neighbouring atoms in the crystal as much as possible, they save energy. The corresponding band is therefore at lower energies than one where the electrons may meet their neighbours in the crystal. The effect itself has been known for quite a while. “We are the first to observe the crystal field splitting in the scanning tunnelling microscope,” says Steffen Wirth.  From these bands with the different energies the electrons then tunnel into the microscope tip.

The fact that the crystal field splitting becomes visible in the tunnelling microscope also shows the researchers that they are measuring not only surface properties, but mostly properties of the interior of their samples. “This was not clear before the investigation,” says Steffen Wirth. Scanning tunnelling microscopes are particularly sensitive to the characteristics of the surface and everything which lies or happens on it. It could also have been the case that the physicists saw only special effects of the surface. “We can now exclude this,” says Wirth.

This is also one of the reasons why the physicists in Dresden are quite confident in their explanation as to why the tunnelling current collapses when the voltage decreases to zero. At low temperatures, hardly any current continues to flow between the sample and the tip of the tunnelling microscope. The researchers put this decrease down to the Kondo effect on individual ytterbium atoms – the very phenomenon which the experiments were actually designed to investigate.

The 4f electrons, which are localized at the ytterbium atoms, rotate about their own axis and thus create the usual magnetic moments of the ytterbium atoms – physicists call this rotation spin. The Kondo effect causes the conduction electrons, which transport the current, to form quasi-particles with these magnetic moments at around minus 170 degrees Celsius. These quasi-particles can possibly be visualized as a cloud of the local magnetic moments and the conduction electrons surrounding them. The spins of the conduction electrons here are oriented in precisely the opposite direction to the spins of the local 4f electrons and thus shield the magnetic moments of the 4f electrons. Since the quasi-particles are relatively heavy compared to an individual electron, the heavy fermion metals have been named after them.

“We assume that fewer and fewer conduction electrons contribute to the tunnelling conductivity at temperatures below minus 170 degrees Celsius, because they are increasingly bound in quasi-particles,” says Steffen Wirth. “We therefore take the decrease of the tunnelling current to be strong evidence for the Kondo effect.”

Wirth and his colleagues can interpret the final conspicuous detail of the tunnelling current curve with less clarity: a hump at - 6 millivolts, which only occurs below minus 245 degrees Celsius, but markedly dents the current-voltage curve at minus 268 degrees Celsius. “We interpret this as an indication of a Kondo lattice,” says Steffen Wirth. Quasi-particles formed by the Kondo effect join together to form a Kondo lattice. The quasi-particles then cease to lead an isolated existence in the material, but interact with each other. This process also leads them to form an energy band, in which the mixture of 4f and conduction electrons likes to be – this is the assumption.

“Whether a Kondo lattice exists and when it forms is a very controversial issue,” says Steffen Wirth. Some physicists assume that the lattice forms before the quasi-particles. “I cannot imagine that physically,” says Steffen Wirth: “And we actually observe the decrease of the tunnelling current at higher temperatures than the signal which we assume to be caused by the Kondo lattice,” explains Wirth. If the interpretation of the signal at – 6 millivolts is correct, the quasi-particles would only form a lattice after they have been produced, as corresponds to the natural sequence of cause and effect.

It is precisely the interpretation of the signal at – 6 millivolts where the Dresden physicists are not quite certain; calculations which they have done in parallel to their experiments predict the signal will be at around – 2 millivolts. The researchers find the signals of the crystal field splitting at exactly the position where they should be in theory. “It is therefore not clear whether we are really seeing the band of the Kondo lattice,” says Wirth.

The physicists now intend to investigate the discrepancy in more detail; however, this is not the only direction they can now follow. “After our initial investigation with a scanning tunnelling microscope provided such a detailed image of the electronic structure of heavy fermion metals, we now have more possibilities than can be covered in the lifetime of one researcher,” says Steffen Wirth. He and his colleagues therefore want to find out what the current-voltage curve looks like when ytterbium rather than silicon forms the top atomic layer. The researchers also want to add traces of further elements to the ytterbium rhodium silicide, which would probably change its electronic properties considerably. In addition, the researchers want to measure the tunnelling current at temperatures far below minus 268 degrees Celsius. This is where the Kondo effect is assumed to break down, and the 4f electrons take on an anti-ferromagnetic order.

“If we expand the method further, we may also be able to make a contribution to explaining the unconventional superconductivity in heavy fermion metals,” says Steffen Wirth. And that would provide a relatively strong clue as to how so-called high-temperature superconductivity comes about. This is promising in technical terms, although it still begins at temperatures far below freezing. Only when physicists accurately understand its causes can they look for materials that lose their resistance under ordinary conditions.

Original publication:
Stefan Ernst, Stefan Kirchner, Cornelius Krellner, Christoph Geibel, Gertrud Zwicknagl, Frank Steglich und Steffen Wirth; "Emerging local Kondo screening and spatial coherence in the heavy fermion metal YbRh2Si2"; Nature, 16 June 2011


ACHEMA 2012: Getting ready for the energy turnaround

06-27-2011: Renewable energy generation and mobile applications depend on innovative technologies for energy storage. The ACHEMA Special Show 2012 presents the latest technological trends and concepts. In combination with the scientific congress and closely interlinked with the whole range of process technologies on display, it offers a unique setting for the discussion of integrated and innovative solutions.

It’s not just that Germany is in the midst of the energy turnaround - many other countries have taken up the cause of renewable energies as well. According to the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, India counts among the largest growth markets for renewable energies in the world, and China is also planning to expand the use of renewables. New and efficient technologies for energy storage and transfer are an indispensable prerequisite in reaching this goal. At the same time, modern appliances from smartphones to electric cars make high demands on battery technology. The global markets are hungry for adequate solutions, and in face of the urgent need in connection with extended public funding an immense innovation push can be expected.

The Special Show at ACHEMA 2012 from June 18th-22nd, 2012, in Frankfurt puts the latest developments in energy storage and transfer at display. Chemical energy storage, fuel cells, photovoltaics and solarchemical processes are covered as well as concepts for e-mobility, innovative battery technologies and the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier. These topics are discussed in the wider context of ACHEMA showing all aspects of chemical processing and biotechnology. This creates an outstanding opportunity to develop integrated concepts and discuss potential synergies. Energy saving is an integral part of concepts for energy use. Issues regarding process intensification and energy efficiency are discussed intensively and are also a focus topic of ACHEMA 2012.

The congress programme takes up the topics of the Special Show in lecture sessions on process intensification, energy efficiency and materials for energy. Plenary lectures and panel discussions round off the programme centered on the ACHEMA Special Show „Innovative Energy Carriers and Storage“.

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Schenck Process acquires Pentec

 Schenck Process, Germany is pleased to announce its acquisition of Pentec based in Caeté Brazil. Serving both the new equipment and after-sales markets, this acquisition reinforces the position of Schenck Process as a global supplier of solutions throughout the process industries.

Founded in 1975, Pentec is a leading manufacturer and supplier of polyurethane and rubber screening products. Solutions include use in vibratory screening equipment, rubber lining for ball mills and wearing parts in the mining industry.

Dr Jochen Weyrauch, President & CEO Schenck Process, commented, "We warmly welcome Pentec to the Schenck Process Group. The combined product offering now enables customers to purchase both their capital equipment, i.e. vibratory screening machines, and wearing parts from one source. Operating in often the harshest of environments in the mining and heavy industries, Schenck Process and Pentec share the same business philosophy of optimising customers' processes and safeguarding them in the long term through an excellent after-sales service.
The acquisition of Pentec is an important step in the globalisation of our Mining business. It provides a platform in Brazil for us to introduce our complete range of products and solutions for the mining industry."