Sustainability is key as manufacturers focus on materials

Paul Boughton
Products as diverse as detergents and car doors are all becoming more sustainable as chemical companies bring innovative new materials to market. Sean Ottewell reports.

At the International Conference on Soaps, Detergents and Cosmetics (ISDC) in Mumbai, Clariant presented its vision for a sustainable future. In line with the event's theme, Dynamics of Change, Hans Juergen Scholz from Clariant's business unit detergents and intermediates (D&I), gave a presentation on sustainable development - a key megatrend throughout the industry today.

Scholz described sustainable development as "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations - allowing them to meet their own needs". He continued: "Today, the chemical industry has a unique opportunity to place itself at the heart of the process to meet the biggest challenge humanity has yet faced: delivering global sustainability. Criteria for sustainability are: environment, occupational health and safety, plant safety, economic performance and employee structure, renewable sources and recycling."

Potential of silicones

Working closely with customers - both multinational brands and specialised producers - Clariant products allow that detergent formulations obtain optimum results in terms of wash performance, cost-efficiency, and environmental friendliness. Sustainability is a key element of the company's strategy.

In line with the strategy, the company has unveiled two pioneering, low dosage non-halogenated flame retardants for epoxy resins to the electrical and electronics (E&E) industry.

Clariant says that Exolit EP 150 and EP 200, developed specifically for epoxy laminates, set a new benchmark in high-efficiency halogen-free flame retardants for printed circuit boards.[Page Break]

High phosphorous content

With high phosphorous contents of 25 per cent and 29 per cent respectively, only a low dosage of flame retardant has to be used to reach the desired fire protection effect. For example, UL 94 V0 fire ratings can be achieved at a loading of 50 per cent less than with conventional flame retardants.

With the non-halogenated laminate market share growing from two per cent in 2004 to 13 per cent in 2010, Clariant is expecting a lot of interest from potential customers in the efficiency-boosting Exolit EP grades. It has already begun the up-scaling process for commercial production.

Cradle to Cradle

DSM has announced that its entire Arnitel Eco family has been awarded Cradle to Cradle certification by the internationally renowned sustainable design firm, McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC). Arnitel Eco is an innovative, more sustainable, high-performance, partly bio-based thermoplastic copolyester (TPC) that supports greater environmental friendliness in end-user applications.

The Cradle to Cradle concept, developed by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, aims to eliminate waste entirely by circulating safe and beneficial materials within closed loop systems of continuous reuse.

The Arnitel Eco range has been evaluated by EPEA Hamburg, Michael Braungart's consultancy firm. The evaluation focused on the product ingredients' human and environmental health attributes and their potential to safely cycle in closed loops. The result is silver certifications for the whole Arnitel Eco family.

In addition to the Arnitel Eco family, Silver certificates have previously been awarded to other DSM high-performance materials including Akulon F&K grades, Arnite T-XG510 halogen-free flame retardant PBT resin, and EcoPaXX UF, an unfilled 70 per cent bio-based polyamide 4.10 resin.

"At DSM, we recognise the growing importance in the market for recycling with the ultimate goal to achieve closed loop systems.

"Our commitment to Cradle to Cradle is expected to develop further over time. We intend to secure certification for more materials within our portfolio and to work closely with other stakeholders in our value chains to pursue further Cradle to Cradle opportunities," said DSM Engineering Plastics sustainability director Fredric Petit.

SABIC's Innovative Plastics business has announced that two automotive applications molded from its broad portfolio of thermoplastic materials received top honours at the recent Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) automotive innovation awards competition In addition, five other applications were recognised as finalists in other categories.

The company says that these innovative components - ranging from the world's first all-plastic door module and a lower leg protection system made with sustainable material to a lighter-weight instrument panel - also help to address the top automotive industry goals of weight and cost reduction, design freedom and improved safety.

"Innovative ways to produce parts on cars are an important factor for OEMs to maintain a strong competitive position in the automotive industry and effectively respond to global trends and challenges," said Gregory A Adams, vice president, automotive, innovative plastics. "We continually strive to deliver differentiated material solutions that meet customers' changing needs."[Page Break]


The first all-plastic structural door-hardware module, also known as the SuperPlug, from Inteva Products (formerly Delphi Interior & Lighting Systems), was the Hall of Fame winner. It replaced 40 separate metal parts with a single gas-assisted injection-moulded part made with SABIC's Xenoy 30 per cent glass-filled polycarbonate/polybutylene terephthalate (PC/PBT) resin (Fig. 1).

"The prestigious Hall of Fame award acknowledges the major contribution Xenoy resin has made to the global automotive industry," said Venkatakrishnan Umamaheswaran, director of marketing, engineering and technology, automotive, innovative plastics.

"The door module concept began with Xenoy PC/PBT resin and has been widely adapted in the industry as the material of choice for this application.

"As a top global supplier of advanced materials solutions, SABIC continues to dedicate resources and expertise to other innovations that meet the changing needs of our automotive customers."

The Superplug door module reduces costs by 10 per cent, reduces weight by 1.5kg/door, or 6kg/vehicle and simplifies assembly by allowing the module to be placed within the door on the assembly line. This door module programme paved the way for door modules across the industry.

The overall grand award winner was the Ford Escape/Ford Kuga instrument panel made by Faurecia using Trexel MuCell microcellular foam injection molding technology and SABIC STAMAX 20 per cent long glass fibre (LGF) polypropylene (PP). This application reduces weight by 0.45kg, reduces cycle time by 15 per cent and lowers cost by about EUR2.26 per vehicle compared to an instrument panel molded with a standard injection molding process.

The MuCell process uses less resin and energy than traditional injection molding, helping to increase the sustainability of the instrument panel.[Page Break]

Lower leg protector

Among the other finalists was the Ford C-Max lower leg protector. This features an undertray with uniquely designed spring-back action to help reduce knee bending and resulting injury during an impact with a pedestrian.

The undertray is molded by Faurecia from SABIC's Xenoy iQ PC/PBT-based resin, which incorporates up to 60 per cent up-cycled post-consumer plastic waste and helps to increase the sustainability of the vehicle. This approach also reduces mass by providing tuned stiffness without the need for additional steel spoiler supports.

Sustainable Xenoy iQ resin is also used to mold the upper load-path energy absorber for the Range Rover Evoque sport utility vehicle, which was also a finalist in the safety category.

This application is a one-piece plastic fascia reinforcement with pedestrian safety functionality and is designed to meet the challenges of lower-leg impact protection in a vehicle with a higher bumper.

This part, moulded by Magna International, integrates five functions, including air intake, headlamp support and grille attachments.

Reduced power consumption

Finally, Ford's Lincoln MKT Town Car (livery model) was a finalist in the interiors category for its patented rear seat vanity mirror and dome lamp combination. This component, moulded by Daimay NA Automotive, uses a single light emitting diode (LED) circuit to reduce power consumption and integrates two previously separate parts into one. This integration saves EUR3 and 0.9kg per vehicle. The application was injection molded using SABIC's Cycoloy PC/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) resin.[Page Break]

Biopolymers for skin care

At the upcoming 'in-cosmetics' show in Barcelona in April, Clariant International Ltd will present three new lines of biopolymers for skin and hair care under the theme 'Touch of Nature'.

As a leading supplier of cosmetic ingredients, Clariant says it has responded to the market's need for natural-based products by launching three new lines of vegetal-based biopolymers that are active ingredients and sensory boosters in skin and hair care. All are extracted from fungal sources that are non-GMO, inexhaustible, quality constant, traceable and renewable.

"These are natural ingredients that moisturise, repair and protect skin and hair, and they are extraordinarily gentle," says Ralf Zerrer, head of atrategic marketing at Clariant's business unit industrial & consumer specialities.

"Our customers can use these to set themselves apart in the personal care industry, to fulfil their consumers' desire for purity and effectiveness."

Vegetal replacement

The new lines are: Vitipure - repairs and protects skin, reduces wrinkles, boosts elasticity and firmness and rebalances and hydrates skin; Velsan - provides a natural, vegetal replacement for silicones in skin care, repairs and coats hair in haircare and creates stable, creamy foam with a pleasant, soft touch; and Zenvivo - the only available vegetal Chitosan.

Chitosan's low-molecular grade reduces odour in mouthwash and deodorants or boosts preservation.

Its high-molecular grade is a film-former in hair-styling, sun care or decorative cosmetics, and provides conditioning performance in skin and hair care.

The three product lines already are in commercial trials with Clariant customers. Early reports suggest that the vegetal biopolymers outperform synthetic and animal-based products on sensorial properties.