Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Süd-Chemie subsidiary Phostech continues its operations with battery material LFP despite negative judgement of the Canadian Federal court of appeal

Despite a decision delivered on August 17th 2011 by the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal that a process used by Süd-Chemie’ Canadian subsidiary Phostech Lithium at its plant of St-Bruno, Canada, violated a patent of Valence Technology Inc. there is no significant impact on the business of Phostech Lithium.

As already released on July 27th 2011, Phostech is about to finalize the production capacity expansion in St-Bruno for its new advanced grade LFP (lithium iron phosphate), an innovative battery material for use in lithium ion batteries for stationary applications and the automotive industry. This new grade LFP with significantly improved performance is not affected by the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal.

“The decision of the Federal Court of Appeal is certainly disappointing, but as our P1 grade was scheduled for replacement by our new advanced grade anyway, we don’t expect a significant impact on our business,” declared Christian Knobloch, General Manager of Phostech Lithium.

In addition, Phostech’s 2,500 tonnes-per-year LIFE Power® P2 grade factory in Candiac, Canada, will start series production in January 2012. The production process of P2 at Candiac is not subject to the procedures that led to the judgment of the Federal Court.

Based in St-Bruno, Canada, Phostech Lithium, a subsidiary of Süd-Chemie AG, Munich, Grmany and part of the Swiss Clariant group, is a world leader in battery materials focusing primarily on research, development and manufacturing of lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4, LFP) – an innovative cathode material with excellent performance and superior safety profile which is expected to contribute to the breakthrough of the new generation of lithium ion batteries for stationary application and the automotive industry.


What's really in that luscious chocolate aroma?

The mouth-watering aroma of roasted cocoa beans — key ingredient for chocolate — emerges from substances that individually smell like potato chips, cooked meat, peaches, raw beef fat, cooked cabbage, human sweat, earth, cucumber, honey and an improbable palate of other distinctly un-cocoa-like aromas.

That's among the discoveries emerging from an effort to identify the essential aroma and taste ingredients in the world's favorite treat, described at the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The research, which chronicles flavor substances from processing of cocoa beans to melting in the mouth, could lead to a new genre of "designer chocolates" with never-before-experienced tastes and aromas, according to Peter Schieberle, Ph.D.

"To develop better chocolate, you need to know the chemistry behind the aroma and taste substances in cocoa and other ingredients," said Schieberle. A pioneer in revealing those secrets, Schieberle received the 2011 ACS Award for the Advancement of Application of Agricultural and Food Chemistry at the meeting. "That understanding must begin with the flavor substances in the raw cocoa bean, extend through all the processing steps and continue as the consumer eats the chocolate.

"When you put chocolate in your mouth, a chemical reaction happens," explained Schieberle. "Some people just bite and swallow chocolate. If you do that, the reaction doesn't have time to happen, and you lose a lot of flavor."

Chocolate is made from cacao (or cocoa) beans, the seeds of cacao trees. Raw cocoa beans have an intense, bitter taste and must be processed to bring out their characteristic flavor. Processing starts with fermentation, in which the moist seeds sit for days in baskets covered with banana leaves while yeasts and bacteria grow on the beans and alter their nature. The beans are dried in the sun and then roasted. Much of the chocolate used in baking, ice cream and hot cocoa undergoes "Dutch processing," which gives it a milder taste. Worldwide, about 3 million tons of cocoa are produced each year.

Cocoa production developed over the years by trial and error, not by scientific analysis, so the substances that give chocolate its subtle flavors were largely unknown, said Schieberle. He is a professor at the Institute for Food Chemistry at the Technical University of Munich, Germany. Over the past 20 years, his team has uncovered many secrets of chocolate's allure.

The distinctive chocolate flavor evolves throughout its production. Odorless, tasteless "precursors" form during fermentation, and these precursors react during roasting to form taste and aroma compounds. The flavors of chocolate and other foods come not just from taste buds in the mouth, Schieberle noted. Odor receptors in the nose play an important role in the perception of aroma. Schieberle and colleagues identified various substances present in cocoa for aromas that bind to human odor receptors in the nose. They mimicked the overall chocolate flavor in so-called "recombinates" containing those ingredients, and taste testers couldn't tell the difference when they sampled some of those concoctions. Individually, those substances had aromas of potato chips, peaches, cooked meat and other un-chocolatey foods.

"To make a very good cocoa aroma, you need only 25 of the nearly 600 volatile compounds present in the beans," said Schieberle. "We call this type of large-scale sensory study 'sensomics.'" Sensomics involves compiling a profile of the key chemical players responsible for giving specific foods their distinctive taste and aroma.

Because no individual compound was identified bearing the typical aroma of cocoa, the researchers had to pick apart individual aromas and put them back together for taste testers to experience. This is a crucial step toward determining how aroma substances work together to stimulate human odor and taste receptors to finally generate the overall perception of chocolate in the brain.

Some of Schieberle's research also uncovered a way to improve the taste of chocolate. The group found that by adding a little bit of sugar to the cocoa before Dutch processing, the chocolate becomes even milder and more velvety due to the formation of previously unknown taste components.

Schieberle's data could help manufacturers control and improve the flavor of cocoa products by assessing these key components in their mixtures.


New technology expands ability to recycle precious metals

Precious metals like platinum and rhodium are very valuable, and also very rare. That makes it increasingly important to recycle these precious metals from a wide variety of industrial uses. For example, various catalytic processes in the chemical industry generate large amounts of fluid residue containing low concentrations of precious metal catalysts.

The new adsorption process (scavenger technology) being offered in cooperation with the PhosphonicS company in the UK will allow Heraeus to reprocess waste solutions that contain even low concentrations of precious metals. Up until now, it simply was not affordable or profitable to recycle them.

“This strategic partnership is another building block for us to offer our customers a broader range of precious metal recycling,” notes Dr. Joachim Kralik, Head of Chemical Process Development Recycling in the Heraeus Precious Metals Business Unit. Heraeus brings to the partnership its wide-ranging expertise with precious metals and many years of experience in recycling materials containing precious metals—especially from industrial catalysts. This cooperation means that Heraeus customers from the pharmaceutical, industrial, and specialty chemical industries will be able to optimize their processes, both ecologically and economically.

Together with PhosphonicS, Heraeus offers a wide range of a new generation of select and efficient adsorption agents—called scavengers—to remove and recover precious metals from chemical products and waste solutions. Since this can accomplish precious metal output levels for process solutions in the single-digit ppm range (ppm = parts per million), even the slightest amounts of precious metal are retained and reused in the precious metals cycle, saving both resources and the environment.

The scavenger process allows the efficient recovery, even for waste solutions with extremely low concentrations of precious metals. “With this process, it’s almost like we’re pulling finely distributed precious metal residue from the solution with a ‘chemical magnet.’ The precious metal is bound to the surface of the adsorption medium. We can reprocess that material with its valuable content using wet-chemical processes in a way that yields pure precious metal,” explains Dr. Kralik in simple terms.

In principle, the scavenger process can be used for all precious metals. This technology has already been successfully employed for heavily-diluted organic platinum and rhodium solutions from homogeneous catalytic processes from the chemical industry. Rhodium is principally needed for catalytic converters for the automotive industry, but also finds widespread application in the chemical industry because of its outstanding catalytic properties. Homogeneous catalytic processes using rhodium play an important role in the production of special chemicals (plasticizers, acetic acid, acetic anhydride, and pharmaceutical agents). Platinum catalysts are important for silicone production.

Evonik: Construction begins on specialty chemical facility for electronic chips

 Evonik Industries has begun building a second hexachlorodisilane (HCDS) production facility in Rheinfelden, a city in Germany’s Baden region. Production is scheduled to begin in the second half of 2012. Hexachlorodisilane, a raw material containing silicon, is used by the semiconductor industry to manufacture inexpensively and efficiently, among other things, memory chips with extremely high storage densities. Known as “flash memory,” these chips can be found in devices such as smart phones, digital cameras, MP3 players, or USB sticks. Solid state drives consisting of flash memory chips instead of the standard hard drives are also increasingly used in computers.

“By building this new production facility, we’re striving to further bolster our already strong position as a provider of key raw materials for the electronics industry,” comments Dr. Thomas Haeberle, Evonik’s Executive Board member with responsibility for the segment Resource Efficiency. Evonik markets hexachlorodisilane under the Siridion® HCDS brand. “We believe that hexachlorodisilane has promising market prospects and are planning to supply it in particular to Asia’s semiconductor industry,” adds Thomas Hermann, Head of the Inorganic Materials Business Unit.

Production methods for silicon compounds are one of Evonik’s most important technology platforms as a specialty chemicals producer. The company itself developed the hexachlorodisilane production process and successfully implemented it in Rheinfelden in September 2010 as the first plant put into operation. The second, new production facility is much larger and has a capacity of several tens of thousands of kilograms.