01/26/2006, Düsseldorf

 

Interdisciplinary research reaps its rewards

 

 
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Name Wolfgang Zengerling
  Research & Development, Sustainability
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Henkel confers its "Research/Technology Invention Award"

Henkel KGaA has selected five in-house research teams as winners of its "Research/Technology Invention Award". The accolades for outstanding scientific achievement have been conceived to honor, in particular, successful interdisciplinary research capable of providing Henkel with future potential for business development and/or cost reductions.

The projects that Henkel has selected for its "Research/Technology Invention Award" vary widely in both nature and application: innovative active ingredients for high-performance industrial adhesives; optimized methods for the detection of germs and bacteria; the industrial manufacture of nanomaterials; innovative test methods for actives used in hair care applications; and intelligent chemistry for the prevention of fungal mold development.

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Lehner, Chairman of the Management Board of Henkel KGaA, and Dr. Wolfgang Gawrisch, Henkel's CTO Research/Technology, handed the awards over to the five research teams at a ceremony held in Düsseldorf on January 24, 2006. With inventiveness and innovation a common denominator, the evaluation criteria of the jury were heavily biased toward the sustainable long-term benefit that the developments were likely to bring to Henkel.

"The Central Research unit at Henkel covers a wide range of disciplines and topics, providing us with an effective platform for innovation," explained Gawrisch, and through its Invention Awards, Henkel is deliberately underscoring the importance of the interdisciplinary approach to breaking new ground."

The company has a long tradition of recognizing and awarding exceptional research and innovatory achievements. The "Fritz Henkel Award for Innovation" has been conferred annually since 1982 for innovative processes and products that have also been demonstrably successful in the marketplace. With its "Research/Technology Invention Award" scheme, Henkel has another instrument in its motivational armory for encouraging exceptional research, in this case with a specific bent toward interdisciplinary collaboration.

A total of 65 of Henkel's scientists were recognized by the Company's "Research/Technology Invention Award 2005" in respect of the following five innovative projects:

- High-performance composite systems for improved long-term bonding of aluminum using polyurethane adhesives
- Automated process for the rapid detection of germs in filterable raw materials and products
- Innovative production technology for the manufacture of nanomaterials
- Rapid screening of hair care actives using a Henkel-developed hair follicle model
- Adhesives and sealants for the reliable and environmentally compatible prevention of mold attack in the household.

The winning research projects in more detail:

High-performance composite systems for improved long-term bonding of aluminum with polyurethane adhesives

Like a molecular claw incorporated in the polyurethane adhesive, an innovative active ingredient has been developed that enhances the long-term stability of
bonds on metal substrates. Its benefits:

- The mechanism is effective on various metal surfaces, and even under the most arduous environmental conditions the system is able to reliably prevent corrosion products from forming within the bonded joint

- The metal surfaces do not need to undergo expensive primer treatments. In conventional processes, primers are required in order to ensure improved adhesion and corrosion protection.

The research team optimized the chemical structure of the molecular claws by applying computer chemistry modeling methods: the scientists investigated the relationship between possible molecular structures on the one hand and the measurable properties of the adhesive formulation on the other.

The polyurethane adhesive, part of the Macroplast product line, has proven its performance capabilities in a range of practical applications, with third-party validation being provided by an independent institution. The development of structural adhesive bonding for aluminum achieving long-term chemical stability without primer pretreatments provides Henkel with a unique selling proposition.


Automated process for the rapid detection of germs in filterable raw materials and products

Direct Epifluorescence Filter Technology (DEFT) offers a novel method for the rapid detection of contaminating germs. The technology is used in respect of water-based liquid products or production facilities. With DEFT, the contamination of a product with, say, bacteria or fungi can be detected and analyzed in the laboratory with exceptional speed - the process usually takes no more than one to two hours. This offers enormous advantages over conventional methods:

- Raw materials can be released much more quickly
- Quarantine periods are significantly reduced
- Cleaning and disinfection processes can be optimized

This test method serves to investigate either a raw material or a product specimen, or a water specimen from, for example, a cooling or refrigeration circuit, or even the water with which a facility has been rinsed or flushed out.

Germ contamination is conventionally identified by the formation of bacteria cultures on agar dishes. However, this method takes up to seven days, and only one tenth of all possible germs can be identified. The other 90 percent do not grow on agar. The DEFT alternative, on the other hand, takes just one to two hours and provides indications of all types of germ.


Innovative production technology for the manufacture of nanomaterials

Because they are so incredibly small, nanoparticles are a law unto themselves. Their full-scale production is thus a major technological challenge. While certain results can be achieved at the laboratory scale, such outcomes do not transfer easily when manufacturing several tons of the substance. In just one year, however, an interdisciplinary team of specialists from Henkel and the research company SusTech Darmstadt have succeeded in developing from the non-automated laboratory scale a highly automated production plant for nanoparticles in Düsseldorf-Holthausen. The special features of the facility:

- Variable configurability for testing or production tasks
- Exceptionally high hygiene standards

At the moment, Henkel is using the facility to manufacture Nanit®active, an active ingredient used in Theramed S.O.S. Sensitive, a toothpaste that alleviates the pain caused by sensitive teeth.


Rapid screening of hair care actives using a Henkel-developed hair follicle model

Innovative hair care starts at the roots. Until now, however, there has not been a reliable test system capable of rapidly analyzing the effect of substances and their mixtures on hair biology, nor to verify in a cost-efficient manner their efficacy in the root of the hair. Hence, the hair biologists from Henkel have developed a sequence of three test systems with which they are able to quickly and comprehensively characterize candidate actives and, in particular, verify their effect at the root of the hair:

- The first stage involves a high-performance screening system capable of testing active ingredients in the relevant quantities, and of accurately determining their biological effect in the living part of the hair (root)
- Candidate actives are then more extensively characterized with a new Henkel-developed hair follicle model
- Innovative in-vivo methods then allow accelerated investigation of the active ingredients by specific testing on human subjects

The first active ingredient to have been screened in this way, carnitine tartrate, is now used (as from mid 2005) in the hair care series BC Bonacure Hair Therapy from Schwarzkopf Professional.


Household adhesives and sealants for the reliable and environmentally compatible prevention of mold attack in the household

Mold in the home is a sensitive subject. And fungal attack often only comes to light once large areas have become affected, and those ugly black stains appear. This is not only unsightly but can also be unhealthy. Often, the only remedy is to combat the mold with aggressive anti-fungal toxins or to completely remove the materials affected. Now, Henkel's researchers have developed a concept with which mold formation on surfaces can be effectively prevented through the use of sophisticated active ingredients. Actives such as farnesol, for example, are able to block the formation of mold fungus pores from the outset, thus significantly reducing allergy sources in confined spaces.


Photos illustrating the projects can be downloaded from the websites indicated below.