News and development

Excerpt: Clariant unveils its most efficient styrene catalyst for ultra-low steam-to-oil ratio conditions. EPIKOTE epoxy resin system wins major industry award for innovation.

Clariant unveils its most efficient styrene catalyst for ultra-low steam-to-oil ratio conditions

CLARIANT, a world leader in specialty chemicals, today announced the launch of its new high-performance ethyl benzene dehydrogenation catalyst StyroMax UL3. Thanks to its proprietary design, the catalyst achieves outstanding activity and selectivity at conditions of ultra-low steam-to-oil ratio (also known as steam-to-hydrocarbon ratio, SHR). Thereby, it produces styrene monomer far more efficiently than many other state-of-the-art catalysts. StyroMax UL3 was officially launched at the Clariant Styrene Seminar 2016, which was held from October 12 to 14 in Xi'an, China.

StyroMax UL3 solves a critical problem in styrene monomer production. Styrene monomer is manufactured from ethyl benzene using superheated steam as energy source, and relies on catalysts to facilitate the dehydrogenation reaction. As generating steam consumes considerable energy, the latest plant process designs rely on ultra-low SHR conditions in order to reduce costs. However, previous generations of styrene catalysts have performed suboptimally at such low SHR conditions, demonstrating either favorable activity or selectivity, but not both.

In contrast, Clariant's StyroMax UL3 catalyst has been proven to offer superior activity as well as enhanced selectivity at ultra- low SHR conditions (1.0 by weight). The new catalyst was installed at the Grand Pacific Petrochemical Corporation (GPPC) styrene production plant in Taiwan in May 2016, and design SM production rate has already been achieved at lower temperatures than previous operation. Also, catalyst selectivity has improved by 0.5% compared to former catalyst performance.

The higher activity of StyroMax UL3 increases yields, while its improved selectivity decreases the occurrence of by-products such as toluene and benzene, which are typically less valuable than styrene monomer. For producers, this directly translates into significant savings and increased productivity. Moreover, the catalyst's optimal performance at ultra-low SHR ratios now makes styrene monomer production a much more sustainable process.

Stefan Heuser, Senior Vice President & General Manager Business Unit Catalysts at Clariant, stated, “We are proud to partner with GPPC as our first industrial reference for StyroMax UL3. With StyroMax UL3, we have a cutting-edge catalyst that serves one of the most challenging applications in the industry, and provides tangible economic benefits to our customers.”

Mr. Yang Pin-Cheng, President of GPPC, added, “Selecting a catalyst that works efficiently in ultra-low SHR conditions can significantly reduce the production cost in our plant. We have used the new StyroMax UL3 in our styrene monomer production since May 2016, and we are very pleased with its performance.”

EPIKOTE epoxy resin system wins major industry award for innovation

AN EPIKOTE epoxy resin system from Hexion Inc. (“Hexion” or the “Company”) used in the production of structural composite parts for the BMW 7-Series automobiles earned the People's Choice award for Most Innovative Composite Part at the recent Society of Plastic Engineers' (SPE) 16th Annual Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition. The epoxy resin system enables the manufacturing of lighter parts that enhance the vehicles' performance.

Hexion's composite of epoxy and carbon fiber reinforced plastic, aluminum and super high-strength steels helped reduce vehicle weight by up to approximately 287 pounds compared to predecessor models – despite being fitted with an extended range of comfort and safety features. The lightweight construction enables better load distribution and lowers the center of gravity for the vehicle, improving driving dynamics, comfort and fuel efficiency.

“We are pleased to be recognized for this powerful demonstration of the positive impact of advanced materials in automotive applications,” said Francis Defoor, Hexion global market segment leader for transportation. “Our EPIKOTE epoxy resin system enables high-volume manufacturing while also significantly reducing vehicle weight and improving performance and safety. This award is tremendous validation of our ongoing work with the BMW Group and our shared commient to automotive innovation.”

In the BMW 7-Series, Hexion resins are used in several carbon- fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) applications as part of the BMW Group's innovative carbon core body structure. The use of CFRP for structural elements of the passenger cell as part of a hybrid construction scheme incorporating ultra-high-strength steels increases both the overall strength and torsional and bending stiffness of the passenger cell. These parts are manufactured using fast cycle time, high-pressure resin transfer molding and liquid compression molding processes. Hexion's proprietary EPIKOTE epoxy resin system and EPIKURE curing agent ensure curing in less than two minutes, allowing production of several thousand parts per day.

More wear comfort, less weight: Plasteel Eyewear made from Evonik's VESTAKEEP PEEK

TOGETHER with Evonik, Mentor Optical Limited, an eyewear manufacturer based in Hong Kong, successfully developed its new brand model Plasteel using Evonik's high performance plastic VESTAKEEP PEEK.

Plasteel Eyewear

Innovation at Evonik with VESTAKEEP PEEK supported the creation of the Plasteel Eyewear at Mentor Optical which is a lightweight & tough optical frame with a unique patented plastic rim lock design. The Eyewear weighs just 9 grams whereas traditional frames weigh as much as 23 grams, thereby offering the greatest wear comfortability. In addition, Plasteel frames' rim height can be designed to be as low as 1.6mm while the thickness at the temple can be as thin as 0.9mm. The frames are ultra-strong and can sustain a 360 bending test without breakage providing performance & protection against broken eyewear especially in sport activities. With a patented plastic rim lock design, the frames allow prescription lenses to be mounted easily and eliminate damages associated with traditional 'push through' method.

VESTAKEEP for Plasteel

Plasteel inherits its excellent mechanical properties and performance from VESTAKEEP Polyether ether ketone (PEEK) produced by Evonik Industries. VESTAKEEP PEEK is a high- performance thermoplastic polymer ideal for producing reliable & long-lasting components for use in the toughest conditions. It is characterized by its superior resistance to stress cracking making it suitable for injection molding very thin components. VESTAKEEP PEEK has a high energy absorption and its ductile behavior can prevent any premature deformation and cracks in the frames. Furthermore, VESTAKEEP PEEK has excellent biocompatibility and biostability due to the polymers' high chemical resistance and thermal stability.

PlasteelEyewear made fromEvonik'sVESTAKEEP PEEK (Source: Mentor Optical Limited).

Collaboration for success

The success of Plasteel frames is the product of a collaboration between three companies: Evonik, Mentor Optical Limited and Ngai Hing Engineering Plastic (NHEP). Evonik provided the critical material & product know-how while NHEP being the strategic distribution partner supported by offering quick local support to Mentor Optical.

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