Research focus areas – examples

  • Innovations based in chemistry to answer important questions of the future

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.

The field of efficient energy systems reveals high innovation and market potential. In this context, BASF is working on such topics as the development of high-temperature superconductors based on yttrium barium copper oxide, which transmits electricity at low temperatures with negligible loss and enables savings potential in generating and transporting power. Its current-carrying capacity is twenty times greater than that of copper, the most commonly used material in electrical lines. Two milestones have been achieved on the path toward a market launch: BASF and the global energy company American Superconductor Corp. (AMSC) announced a licensing agreement and research cooperation together in March 2016. Furthermore, Deutsche Nanoschicht GmbH, a 100% subsidiary of BASF New Business GmbH, started up a pilot plant for manufacturing high-temperature superconductors in May 2016.

As the market leader in chemicals, BASF holds a special responsibility toward people and the environment. Accordingly, new products undergo comprehensive environmental and toxicological testing before being brought to market. These tasks are appointed to the Bioscience Research technology platform and include the search for new methods to reduce, improve or replace the animal testing required by law. We are the global forerunner in the chemical industry in developing such alternative methods. In May 2016, LuSens, an alternative method developed by BASF, was validated by the European Union. LuSens is one component of a three-part testing strategy that enables reliable screening for allergic skin reactions on contact with chemicals.

3-D printing involves the development of innovative materials. Compared with injection molding, 3-D printing offers advantages such as lower costs in small-series production, more time efficiency, and the realization of complex structural elements in a single manufacturing process. In the chemical industry, BASF has a broad material portfolio for 3-D printing at its disposal. BASF New Business GmbH is constructing a development center in Heidelberg, Germany, to develop improved materials and optimize the interplay between materials and 3-D printers, together with partners like printer manufacturer Farsoon Technologies. Furthermore, our Advanced Materials & Systems Research technology platform is active in this field at the sites in Ludwigshafen, Germany; Basel, Switzerland; Wyandotte, Michigan; and Shanghai, China. One attest to BASF’s competencies in material development is Ultrasint PA6 X028, launched in April 2016. This powder, based on polyamide 6, is geared toward use in the laser sintering technique widely used in 3-D printing. Compared with conventional polyamides, it provides superior mechanical stability and higher heat resistance. Furthermore, BASF announced its intention in November 2016 to expand its cooperation with American printer manufacturer HP in order to move forward with the devleopment of new 3-D print materials.

In the E.U.-supported PRODIAS1 project, researchers and developers of our Process Research & Chemical Engineering technology platform are working together with partners from industry and academia on methods and processes that allow products based on renewable raw materials to be produced efficiently and with fewer resources, while simultaneously increasing the competitiveness of these products. The biotechnological processes used, like fermentation, mostly take place in diluted aqueous systems that demand energy-intensive steps for separation and purification. Through the use of freeze concentration – a technique typical in the food industry – we managed to concentrate biotechnologically produced products in an especially gentle manner with negligible losses for the first time in 2016.

1 PRODIAS stands for Processing Diluted Aqueous Systems.