Respect for the environment and natural resources is at the heart of sustainable conduct. We too see this as our duty. Our Performance Materials business sector produces materials that our customers can use to develop more sustainable products. Take for example liquid crystals that increase display efficiency, or materials that continuously improve solar cells and organic photovoltaics.
Our Life Science business sector develops technologies and solutions to make research and biotech production simpler, faster and more successful. Here, too, we take sustainability into account at the very start of product development.
Our Performance Materials business sector manufactures numerous products that help our customers develop sustainable and environmentally compatible products. Our requirements are set out in the following guidelines:
- Our Product Safety Chemicals Policy: This specifies our Group-wide product safety requirements.
- Our Green Product Policy: This ensures that we adhere to all national and international laws and statutes (e.g. REACH and the the European Union RoHS Directive) as well as industry and customer-specific requirements. Furthermore, this policy forbids the use of acutely toxic, mutagenic or otherwise hazardous substances that remain in the end product.
- For Display Materials products as well as Pigments & Functional Materials products, we adhere to our customers' Halogen-free Policy.
Across all our manufacturing facilities, our raw materials for the cosmetics industry fulfill the high standards of the Cosmetics Directive, for example Good Manufacturing Practices (EFfCI GMP).
Best practice examples to improve sustainability
Our Performance Materials products help boost sustainability in a variety of different ways:
Liquid crystals (LCs) ensure high picture quality in computer monitors and televisions, reducing their energy requirements. This is because our PS-VA technology (polymer-stabilized vertical alignment) arranges the liquid crystals so as to better utilize the backlighting, which is a display’s largest power consumer. Thanks to PS-VA technology, devices consume significantly less energy than precursors.
Self-aligned vertical alignment (SA-VA) is the next-generation liquid crystal technology in development, with the first SA-VA products expected on the market in 2017. SA-VA helps conserve resources and is environmentally sustainable because less energy and solvent are required to manufacture the displays. Moreover, it is more efficient as fewer process steps are necessary. Since SA-VA technology can be used at lower temperatures, it is also suitable for sensitive materials such as those in premium products or pioneering applications such as flexible displays.
Mobile device displays have increasingly high resolutions but are still expected to be as energy-efficient as possible. This is exactly where our liquid crystals for touchscreen applications come in. Based on Ultra-Brightness FFS technology (UB-FFS), these liquid crystals provide displays with 15% more light transmission. This can reduce the energy consumption of smartphones and tablets by around 30%, thereby prolonging battery life. UB-FFS furthermore enhances picture resolution. We are currently working to advance this technology so that it can also be used in applications such as LCD televisions.
Windows that darken in a matter of seconds are now a reality thanks to our liquid crystal window (LCW) technology. Because they also reduce heat input from sunlight, initial estimates show that these windows can lower the energy consumed by building climate control systems by up to 40%. Commercialized under our licrivision™ brand, this technology thus renders conventional sun shading redundant. We are currently investing € 15 million in the construction of a production facility for liquid crystal window modules in the Netherlands. The manufacture of these switchable glass modules is scheduled to begin there at the end of 2017. More information can be found in our story "Exploring the future".
Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) likewise increase the energy efficiency of displays. They furthermore provide brilliant colors and razor-sharp images. Over the past several years, we’ve been researching innovative printing processes to efficiently produce large-screen OLED displays. To this end, we’ve been partnering closely with printer manufacturers. In September 2016, we opened a new production plant for OLED materials at our site in Darmstadt. Costing around € 30 million, this plant represents one of the largest single investments we have made at the Darmstadt site in recent years.
Innovations in photovoltaics
We supply the photovoltaics industry with materials for the production of highly efficient solar cells. These materials enable the realization of innovative applications for photovoltaics such as flexible, semi-transparent and lightweight solar cells that can be used in buildings, on curved or straight surfaces or even in clothing.
Phasing out plastic microbeads
We manufacture mineral-based pigments and functional fillers used by the cosmetics industry in formulations for various purposes. Our RonaFlair® functional fillers range provides an alternative to plastic microbeads contained in skin care products.
Through their use in cosmetics and other products, plastic microbeads end up in marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and are facing public criticism because they are not biodegradable. Through our alternative mineral products, we are supporting, for example, the declaration of Cosmetics Europe, which advocates a phase-out of microplastics in rinse-off products by 2020.
Increase in natural cosmetics
An ever-growing number of consumers place importance on natural cosmetics. Together with our customers in the cosmetics industry, we are responding to this rising demand by developing cosmetic formulations that meet strict criteria. The majority of our cosmetic raw materials meet the criteria of Ecocert’s Cosmos standard for organic and natural cosmetics.
We endeavor to reduce the environmental and health impacts of our Life Science products. This applies to their entire life cycle, from manufacture and use to end of life. At the same time, we want to make our products more efficient and user-friendly. That is why, right at the beginning of the product development phase, we ask ourselves how to best reconcile these requirements.
With our Design for Sustainability (DfS) program, we have developed a comprehensive approach. The DfS program provides our product developers with a range of tools, enabling them to analyze the impact of the product on the following areas: materials, energy and emissions, waste, water, packaging, usability, and innovation. For each of these areas, we have developed several sustainability criteria that are noted on a score card. When developing a new product, our aim is to improve on as many of these criteria as possible. To understand the potential impacts on the environment within different product life cycle stages, we conduct product life cycle analyses. The results of these analyses show us how we can improve our products and are incorporated into subsequent development stages. During this process, experts from R&D, Product Management, Quality, Procurement, and other departments are in constant contact.
Through our DfS process, we have improved the product properties across 32% of our BioMonitoring product developments and product updates in at least three of our self-defined sustainability criteria. We will be incorporating our suppliers into our Design for Sustainability program as well. In 2016, we launched a pilot project to define the relevant requirements for our suppliers.
In addition to following this design process, our Life Science research teams are developing innovative solutions in line with the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry formulated by chemists Paul T. Anastas and John C. Warner. These aim to make research as environmentally compatible as possible and to minimize negative impacts on human health. Under the green chemistry approach, researchers look for alternative, ecologically sustainable reaction media with higher reaction rates and lower reaction temperatures to make production more energy efficient. In total, we offer more than 700 products that align with the Principles of Green Chemistry, making them a “greener” alternative to conventional products.
A wide range of solutions
Our Life Science portfolio comprises a broad array of products, each with different properties that are taken into consideration when applying our DfS approach and the Principles of Green Chemistry. The following examples illustrate the results.
More environmentally compatible laboratory filters
Using our DfS approach, we have significantly reduced the environmental footprint of our EZ-Fit™ Manifold laboratory filter. In comparison with its predecessor, the Hydrosol Manifold, we require 47% less raw material for the EZ-Fit™ Manifold. Its packaging consists of 100% recyclable cardboard and, overall, 95% of its parts are recyclable. Because the heads can be easily removed for cleaning, it is no longer necessary to clean the whole device, which saves energy and results in a 91% reduction in the carbon dioxide emissions produced during cleaning. In 2016, we furthermore expanded our range to include a disposable filtration device, which is used to determine the microbial count in liquid samples. Thanks to our DfS approach, we have particularly improved the packaging of this product.
In comparison with conventional alternatives, our greener solvents are based on natural resources such as corn cobs and sugar cane bagasse. They are more ecologically sustainable, easier to recycle and more biodegradable. Take for example the solvent Cyrene™, which we launched onto the market in 2016. It is bioderived from waste cellulose and is used as an alternative to dimethylformamide (formic acid), which has been the subject of increasing criticism in recent years due to its mutagenic effects. With CyreneTM, we are helping our customers in the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries make their production processes safer and more environmentally sustainable.
Instruments for biofuels
Our Guava® HT series of flow cytometers is helping to drive biofuel research and development. For example, our customers are using the Guava instruments to find an algae species that is suitable for diesel production. Our flow cytometers are also being used to produce ethanol from sugar; they test which bacteria digest sugars and thus produce gases that can be refined into ethanol.
Energy-efficient sterility tests
Using the DfS approach, we have reduced the energy consumption of our Steritest™ Symbio pumps for sterility tests by 15% to 30% compared with its predecessor.
Tool to assess the sustainability performance of chemicals
In 2016, we introduced a tool called Dozn™ to assess the green alternatives of various chemicals, thereby creating transparency for our customers. Based on the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry, we evaluate how our products score in three main categories, namely improved resource allocation, efficient energy use, and minimized risk to humans and the environment. One point is given for each of the 12 principles, allowing an easy comparison of the products. The results of the evaluation are verified by an independent body. To date, we have used the matrix to assess and improve more than 40 products.
Displaying Futures: Annual conference on the future of display technology
Pioneering advances such as our efficient UB-FFS display technology are only possible through close collaboration with our partners. We seek to engage trailblazers who look to the future and conceive groundbreaking technologies. This is why we instituted the annual Displaying Futures Symposium, which was held in 2016 for the seventh time.
In September 2016, the symposium centered on the theme “Driving Forces – Inspired by Performance Materials”. At our Group headquarters in Darmstadt, experts from various fields discussed the future of mobility, from cars that communicate with one another to self-driving vehicles.
In 2015, we hosted two events with differing focuses. In October, we met with architects and designers in Chicago, IL (USA) to discuss materials that would transform architecture. We also took the opportunity to introduce our liquid crystal window technology to a large audience. In November, international experts from fields such as displays and electronics gathered together in San Francisco, CA (USA) under the banner “The Future is HOW? Inspired by Performance Materials”. Attendees discussed how materials and high-tech chemicals could be used in future applications.
In 2015, we were granted the German Innovation Award in recognition of our UB-FFS technology, which lowers the power consumed by mobile device displays.
Three of our Life Science products, Titripac®, EZFit™ Manifold and SNAP i.d.® 2.0, were honored in 2016 with the Green Good Design Award for sustainable product design. This award was also given in honor of our Design for Sustainability program, which enabled us to improve these products.
In recognition of close collaboration across company boundaries, we received the Enterprise Innovation Award from the Technical University of Darmstadt in June 2016. In a joint project with Siemens, we developed high-performance materials for energy-efficient generators. These innovative materials not only make the generators more efficient and more powerful, but also allow the construction of buildings that help conserve resources.