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Growth and technology fields

Research focus areas

  • More than ten growth fields with attractive sales potential in 2020, such as Water Solutions, Batteries for Mobility and Functional Crop Care
  • Three technology fields provide technological basis:
    Materials, Systems & Nanotechnology: development of new systems, functional materials and nanotechnology
    Raw Material Change: alternatives and supplements to crude oil as a raw material
    White Biotechnology: methods and processes for the efficient and resource-saving production of chemical and biochemical products

Growth fields

Our research focus is derived from three major areas in which chemistry-based innovations will play a key role in the future: “resources, environment and climate,” “food and nutrition” and “quality of life.” Based on these topics, as well as on the seven key customer sectors derived from them – including energy, transportation and agriculture – we have defined more than ten growth fields for which we expect high sales potential in 2020.

In the Water Solutions growth field, for example, we research innovative solutions for water treatment, such as novel flocculants. We focus on nanotechnology as the key to innovation. Our Multibore® membranes, whose tiny pores measure around 20 nanometers, filter germs, bacteria and even viruses out of the water. This ultrafiltration method is used for applications such as purifying drinking water, surface water and industrial wastewater.

Sustainable mobility concepts such as electromobility require high-performance and affordable batteries. Therefore, in the Batteries for Mobility growth field, we are exploring all the system components of a battery, such as innovative cathode materials with a higher energy density and improved cost- benefit profile, or electrolytes for increased lifespan in lithium-ion batteries. As part of the HELion research project, we successfully tested components like cathode materials and electrolytes in batteries under real-life conditions. To create incentives for the development of high-performance energy storage, we presented the first “Science Award Electrochemistry” together with Volkswagen in 2012; the award, with a value of €50,000, honors excellent academic performance in this field.

The world population’s increasing demand for food requires innovative concepts in agriculture. At around 70%, this sector is the largest consumer of process water. Our research in the Functional Crop Care division includes the more efficient use of this scarce resource. We benefit from our global Research Verbund, our product knowledge and our expertise in agriculture. We develop, for example, innovative technologies and products to control the distribution of moisture in the soil and optimize growth conditions for crops. In a greenhouse complex opened in 2012 at the Agricultural Center in Limburgerhof, we are investigating how plants react to stress factors such as lack of water and nutrients. With customized solutions, we will align our focus even more with the needs of farmers.

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Key customer industries


Including growth fields still under evaluation





Consumer Goods


Health & Nutrition






Energy & Resources





















Growth fields 1

Batteries for
Heat Management
/ Automotive


Heat Management
/ Construction




Medical Solutions


Organic Electronics


Plant Biotechnology
Crop Care


Wind Energy
Water Solutions





















Technology fields

Materials, Systems & Nanotechnology

Raw Material Change








Raw Material Change





White Biotechnology




White Biotechnology





















Technology fields

Various cross-sectional technologies provide the technological basis for developing the growth fields. We have grouped these into three technology fields: Materials, Systems & Nanotechnology, Raw Material Change and White Biotechnology.

The challenges of the future require intelligent solutions based on new systems and functional materials, which means that formulation and application expertise is increasing in significance. In the Materials, Systems & Nanotechnology technology field, our research includes special composites for lightweight automotive construction which are based on endless-fiber-reinforced plastics. As part of a concept study, an interdisciplinary team has successfully developed a convertible roof module with carbon-fiber-reinforced cover layers and a polyurethane foam core. The resulting module is more than 60% lighter than conventional steel constructions.

In the Raw Material Change technology field, we are searching for alternatives and supplements to crude oil as a raw material for the chemical industry. With natural gas, carbon dioxide and renewable resources, we aim to expand the raw material basis of our value chains in the long term. For example, our researchers managed to extract olefins from natural gas with the help of dehydration technologies. Olefins are used as a basic chemical in the production of numerous products such as solvents or surfactants. Thanks to a newly developed catalyst system, we can very efficiently transform the butane found in natural gas into the olefin butene. In Ludwigshafen, we are currently building a pilot plant to prove the effectiveness of the catalyst on a technical scale.

In the technology field White Biotechnology, we are researching methods and processes for the efficient and resource-saving production of chemical and biochemical products. Fermentation and biocatalysis increasingly represent competitive alternatives to chemical processes. Together with our cooperation partner, Purac, we are working on an economically and ecologically attractive fermentation process to produce bio-based succinic acid. The bacterium used here is able to create succinic acid out of renewable raw materials. Bio-based succinic acid is used in bioplastics and chemical intermediates, for example.