Crain News Service report
WESSELING, Germany (March 30, 2015) — Specialty chemicals producer Evonik Industries A.G. plans to invest several million dollars in research to improve fillers for modern high-performance tires, the company said recently, as well as develop silica/silane systems for heavy-duty truck and bus tires.
The company, which recently disclosed plans to invest more than $4 billion over 10 years to boost innovation, said it has specific investment plans for its operations in Wesseling and Rheinfelden, Germany
At Wesseling, the company is readying a pilot-scale line for precipitated silica to allow for working with innovative precipitation media, while at Rheinfelden a research center for silanes is under construction. An additional nuclear magnetic resonance device will be purchased there to allow analysis of complex molecules.
According to the company, the investment is to address “sustainable mobility” issues and to produce “green tires,” demand for which has grown 30 percent since 2010.
The company — which claims to be the only manufacturer supplying both silicas and silanes — also is building a plant for precipitated silica in Brazil that's slated to be on stream during 2016.
Evonik said it is working to develop improved reinforcing filler systems, using a combination of chemical and process technologies. The aim, it said, is to increase the wet traction of tires, reduce rolling resistance and improve grip in snow and slush conditions.
The company also is readying a volatile organic compound-free silane, called XP Si 466 GR, for introduction to the market in the near future.
“When conventional silanes react with silica, they release volatile ethanol, which must be treated safely and in an environmentally friendly way during the tire production,” Evonik said. “In contrast, the new Evonik product… is completely VOC-free.”
The company did not elaborate at this time on its plans for developing silica/silane systems for truck and bus tires, saying only that they could help tire makers meet increased requirements for lower rolling resistance and improved safety in wet and cold conditions. It pointed out that since truck/bus tires are predominantly natural rubber based, it will require specific research.
Regarding the company's 10-year strategic plan, “Our intention is to turn Evonik into one of the world's most innovative companies,” CEO Klaus Engel said. “Innovations open up new business areas and strengthen our leading market and technology positions.”
Evonik increased its R&D spending 4 percent last year to $550 million, or 3.2 percent of sales.