Research focus areas – examples

  • Chemistry-based innovations play important role in answering questions of the future
  • Growth fields with attractive sales potential
  • Science symposia strengthen university network

Our focus areas in research are derived from the 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. In order to develop future business fields with high sales potential for BASF, we develop specific growth fields. These are regularly reviewed in terms of their attractiveness for BASF. When they mature, they are transferred to the operating divisions and new ones are promoted. We will tailor our technology fields even more closely to the needs of the BASF Group and rearrange them into key technologies. Key technologies pool competencies in order to uphold the long-term competitiveness of our businesses and products.

We held three interdisciplinary science symposia in the year of our 150th anniversary: in Ludwigshafen, Germany; Chicago, Illinois; and Shanghai, China. There, a total of 1,500 renowned experts from more than 37 countries engaged with each other on the topics “smart energy,” “food” and “urban living,” developing concrete approaches for interdisciplinary solutions. Nobel laureates Steven Chu of Stanford University in California and Jean-Marie Lehn of the University of Strasbourg in France contributed with keynote speeches. The symposia strengthened our academic network and marked the highlights among the co-creation activities we used to link people and ideas around the globe in order to find new solutions together for global challenges. We plan symposia in the future, as well, in order to foster scientific exchange.

We also successfully maintain close cooperations with others in the area of energy. For example, we have developed new materials for energy-saving cooling together with leading universities and partners from industry around the world. Thanks to their special properties, these magnetocaloric materials warm up when introduced to a magnetic field and cool off again when the field is removed. Compared with today’s usual compressor technology, cooling systems based on these widely available and affordable materials have the potential to reduce energy consumption by up to 35%. They are also quieter and operate without gaseous coolants.

Together with the U.S. technology company Astronautics and the Chinese appliance manufacturer Haier, we introduced the first prototype of a magnetocaloric wine cooler and are now developing it jointly to achieve commercial readiness. We offer our customers magnetocaloric products for their cooling applications under the brand name Quice®.

For us, the development of innovative materials also involves 3-D printing – that is, additive manufacturing. Many complex plastic components have been made using injection molding. By contrast, 3-D printing offers distinct advantages: lower small-batch production costs and considerably less time, since no mold is necessary. Complex structural elements can be built in a single step, allowing for completely new design options like branching internal cavities. And yet the materials currently available on the market often do not meet the high demands of functional components for industrial applications. This is especially true of components optimized for shape and weight, like those in the aviation, automotive, and consumer goods industries. We are therefore developing improved materials together with partners, such as plastics and resins, and optimizing the interplay between the material and 3-D printer.

Process optimization is our goal in the E.U.-supported projects PRODIAS1 and RECOBA2, in which we have been closely collaborating with partners from industry, academia and research institutions since the spring of 2015.

With PRODIAS, we intend to further unlock the potential of products in white biotechnology. This involves methods and processes that allow products based on renewable raw materials to be produced efficiently and with fewer resources. The project focuses particularly on processing diluted aqueous systems, which are generated in large quantities by the manufacture of such products and which demand energy-intensive steps for separation and purification. In PRODIAS, we are developing methods and process steps optimally suited for biotechnological processes, increasing the competitive ability of these products.

The RECOBA research project pursues the goal of improving product quality, efficiency, and flexibility in complex batch processes – such as for emulsion polymerizations – thus saving energy and raw materials. Typically, the process control runs through repetitions according to a fixed schedule. We want to replace this by developing a model-based online control system that can adjust to current conditions and calculate the optimal trajectory for any point in time. Product properties, such as the texture of product particles, can therefore be better controlled, and the reactor’s productivity and energy consumption optimized.

1 The acronym PRODIAS stands for Processing Diluted Aqueous Systems.

2 The acronym RECOBA stands for Real-time sensing, advanced Control and Optimization of Batch processes, saving energy and raw materials.