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  • The winner of the James L. White Innovation Award for 2013 is the polymer processing team of BASF SE, Germany. The research group, which is part of BASF’s global Advanced Materials & Systems Research, is headed, since 2006, by Dr. Roland Hingmann (shown in the picture) and includes Dr. Holger Ruckdäschel, Dr. Anne Thümen and Dr. Xin Yang. The award is given for the development of innovative polymer processing technologies leading to a portfolio of new products, together with design and start-up of the respective manufacturing lines. and fostered.

                Over the last couple of years, special emphasis was put on grouping together researchers having different expertise, covering polymer, material science and polymer engineering. Furthermore, intensive international exchange and cooperation both with academia and machine manufacturers was established  

                Common denominator is the twin screw extrusion technology, which offers numerous degrees of freedom in configuration and process conditions. The team targeted the exploitation of several opportunities based on this workhorse of polymer processing. As a result, new advanced materials for both engineering applications as well as environmentally friendly solutions were developed.

    Conventional extrusion technology is well established for dispersion of e.g. mineral fillers in polymeric matrices as well as for proper morphology control in blends. In the extreme case of nano-scale, however, modification of polymers remains a major challenge. Here, technology  was developed for proper dispersion of carbon nanotubes (CNT) in POM. This included extruder design, processing parameter determination and feeding technology development for safe handling of CNTs on commercial scale.  

                For the extension of BASF’s portfolio with biodegradable plastics, special focus on the respective extrusion technology was necessary. Control of molecular weight via reactive extrusion, control of blend morphology through appropriate mixing, and for some of the grades, homogeneous dispersion and distribution of fillers had to be realized. Ultimately, scale-up from pilot plant to a respective production extruder was implemented.  For effective transfer of results from R&D to commercial scale, scale-up rules for twin screw extrusion processes are required. Here, the group established a set of numerical tools for industrial purposes, allowing a reliable scale-up from pilot plant trials to large-scale production units.

    Finally, a novel technology for fabrication of particle foams was developed, combining sophisticated thermoplastic processing equipment. Completely new foams can be made, since the new versatile process can handle a variety of polymers, allows incorporation of additives, and is flexible with respect to different blowing agents. The technology is currently running on industrial scale at Ludwigshafen.