Dr. K. S. Murthy
Pidilite Industries Ltd., Mumbai

Steve Jobs said “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Department of Fibres & Textile Processing Technology, ICT featured Dr. Dietmar Hueglin on Dr. M. V. Nimkar Memorial Endowment lecture on “The ‘New Normal in Chemical R&D with focus on Sustainability, Digitalization, Globalization and Open Innovation” on 5 May 2021. Prof. Ashok Athalye moderated the presentation and Q/A, attended by 300. Excerpts follow:

Prof. Ravindra Adivarekar welcomed and briefed about the activities, significance and value of the endowment, Dr. M. V. Nimkar (95) distinguished eminent expert in textile chemistry who passed away a couple of days ago.

Mr.Ullhas Nimkar, thanked the textile department for arranging Dr. M. V. Nimkar endowment lecture for the past 15 years; his penultimate interest to attend the lecture online besides fond memories of his visits to BASF in 1960s and to Dr. Dietmar for speaking on the occasion.

Prof. A. B. Pandit, Vice Chancellor offered condolences on his behalf and ICT family and said that MVN is listening with his soul and spirit enjoying the development and work which is being continued from his times. He welcomed all to the maiden memorial lecture and thanked Dr. Dietmar for opening up a topic which is likely to be future area of research thinking as well as implementation as far as textile industry is concerned. Textile and leather are the future sustainable technologies, and materials in terms of their properties, usage, and functionality.

Introducing the speaker, Prof. Ravindra Kale said Dr. Dietmar (62) is Director of BASF Innovation Campus Mumbai, India and Vice President Advanced Materials & Systems Research, PhD from University of Freiburg. During his 30 years of Research in Switzerland, Germany, US, UK, China, Japan, India and global head of R&D, Home and Personal care. Key products from his research work are photo polyamide for semiconductors and cosmetic UV absorbers; He received Sandmeyer award from Swiss Chemical Society in 2004, BASF Innovation Award in 2011. Patents in specialty chemicals used in electronic materials.

Dr. Dietmar Hueglin was sad to hear about passing away of Dr. M. V. Nimkar and sent his condolences. World is changing, when he started in 1990, there were no Mobile Phones, Internet and Computers. He gave an overview on some of his learnings, and research career.

Introduction to BASF: 150-year-old Company was with Synthetic Dyes at the beginning of 1869. Everything is related to chemistry and engineering, IT, biology, and medicine. In the 20th century, there is growth of population, but why this increase, most people attributed to pharmaceutical industry but the reason for this increase is BASF because of N2 + 3H2 ← 2 NH3 Ammonia synthesis. Haber – Bosch process Bread from Air, successful academia-industry collaboration and they made it happen that ammonia can be synthesised in large volumes and from there, fertilizers can be made, increasing the crop yield and thereby planet can bear 7 billion and more.

Track record: Turnover of 60 billion Euros per year; 1.1 lakh people; 10,000 colleagues in R&D all over the world; 1,000 patents. Hundreds of individual plants re interconnected to use side products, energy, related to future of sustainability, critical mass, economical sewage treatment. Head Quarters in Asia, Shanghai Ludwigshafen for Europe. Process research for advance materials, systems research and bioscience research was in the US.

Sales team, campus (all types of functions under one roof from patents, analytics, synthesis, process development) in China (2012, 700 people) and Mumbai (2017, 250 people, focus on small molecules in crop protection and specialty chemicals) and they believe in the future of these countries because they have changed the world of chemicals.

The power of innovation changes the world with new products and made society and people wealthy with good living standards. Newest success is in the COVID after the discovery of virus and sequencing it took a year to come up with a vaccine treatment to exemplify what science and mankind can do if we stand and work together with opportunities.

R&D operations in India were on Sustainability (including Circular Economy) with the provision for 60 Lab Units and 300 employees. 4 years old equipped with analytical, developmental (fuel and lubricant testing of ingredients and fluids, Pharma solution lab for tablet processing because of polymers and ingredients for pharma products, plant technologies, are on computers. New molecule goes into mod plant, process, and bioactive transfer into the final plant (100 tons). They have internal PhD program with ICT, IIT, NCL. Portfolio of business fields, research on agricultural solutions, nutrition and care and industry solutions. Research in synthesis and process development for crop protection, specialty chemicals, molecular modelling, data science, analytic and development units take care of existing products.

New nonphenolic color developer for thermal paper: Pergafast 425 (without Bisphenol A) – Solenis expand production. Design, Process development, up-scaling was takes 8-10 years and cost of 20 million Euros for a new product.

Talent is world’s 2nd largest and in few years’ time India will pass China to become No. 1. Technology world-class academia (IIT, IISc, NCL); Industrial R&D.

  • Market: 5th largest GDP (2019) and fast-growing major economy; 3rd largest chemical industry in Asia after China and Japan.
  • Population: 1.35 billion (2016); Median of 25 years (Germany 48 years).

Challenges and Opportunities: Lot of challenges from India.

  • Health & Nutrition: Clean drinking water; clean air and food chain.
  • Clean energy: CO2 neutral; Waste treatment.
  • Infrastructure & Urbanisation: Roads, Rails, Airports; Public transport; Housing.
  • Waste: Waste reduction; Recycling; CO2 neutral.

Sustainability: License to operate; Consumer expectation, Business opportunity. Unsustainable products and processes will not survive in future. It is also customer expectation and people want sustainable products. This is related to energy consumption, water, feedstock and decarbonisation.

Circular Economy is part of sustainability and chemical recycling. Sustainability is comprehensive not only air ways, water ways, ground but also maximises long-term economic, social, and environmental value. It must be seen as holistic situation because companies who make profits pay taxes to help the developing country.

World Footprint by Nation: Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has used more from nature than our planet can renew in the entire year. Until 1972, everything was in balance but since then, it fell on August 22 in 2020. How many Earths do we need if the world’s population lived like its own? This has to do with travel, housing, cars, vehicles consumption etc. In absolute terms India has high responsibility after Chin and US. BASF, Ludwigshafen with hundreds of plants developed for low water consumption and green energy. They need to optimise their production environment even to go further down CO2 emissions.

CO2-neutral growth: Creating value to society and protecting climate. BASF committed to the Paris Climate Agreement. The key measures are Process improvement; Operational excellence; Shift to CO2-neutral power; Development of new, breakthrough technologies with impact beyond 2030. Carbon management was using CO2 as building block for future chemicals or combining with H2 to syngas (synthetic fuel). Hydrogen used for ammonia and for hydrogenation.

Steam reforming of natural gas CH4 + 2H2O → 4 H2 + CO2
Water electrolysis and Methane pyrolysis yield clean – CO2 – free – hydrogen.
Option 1: Water electrolysis 2H2O → 2H2 + O2 needs lot of energy.

Option 2: Methane pyrolysis: CH4 → 2H2 + C Methane can be split with specific catalyst and technology to make high yield, minimum energy required as compared to electrolysis.
Steam crackers take naphtha and transform to olefines. The furnace uses natural gas which causes CO2 to transform naphtha into olefines, ethylene, and propylene. They now use E-Furnace.

Plastic waste (Mumbai) is another part of sustainability, which must be stopped all over the world. Besides dumping, make new chemicals, new pharmaceuticals, and new polymers. This is done on large scale in Europe, and this is related to circular economy. Economy growth should not be linked to finite resources to more energy and materials and optimise in all phases of production. To minimise waste, keep resources in use if possible. When it comes to chemical recycling of polymers, we have end of the lifetime. A pure polymer can be mechanically recycled, Polyurethane becomes PU. A lot of stuff goes to landfill and littering. In Europe and US, use it for waste fuel of incineration, take hydrocarbons and make energy out of them. Recycling of plastics is to go for chemical recycling by pyrolysis that cracks the hydrocarbon chain. Use naphtha as starting material for polymers and chemicals.

Global alliance to end plastic waste because we need to get rid of situation that plastics ends up in rivers and then in sea causing issues like microplastics. Reliance started consortium of many companies, spending for research and implementing it and BASF is one of the leading European companies. In India, 10 rivers transport more than 90% of plastics in the environment to the ocean and in Asia Ganges is second largest polluter after Yangtze in China.

They apply 12 Principles of Green Chemistry and 12 Principles of Green Engineering for sustainable chemical processes which came from Paul Anastas related to saving energy to minimise side products.
Every new process is judged Cyclodecanone (CDON) and Cyclopentanone CPON from cycloalkenes by selective N2O oxidation.
CDON → Laurolactam → Polyamide 12; CPON → Crop protection, fragrances, electronics. Creativity is key to success in R&D.
Unleash your potential XI + I = X; what is the minimal intervention that equation is right?
Turn the slide upside down then you have new equation X = I + IX.
10% of people come up to this approach.

Anticipation of future needs: Color Filters for Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), Each individual pixel is composed of red, green, and blue subplaces that can be switched on and off, one by one. Colour filter part was discovered and developed by Ciba-Geigy in 90s on Miniaturisation, mobile use of TVs etc.
Ciba-Geigy (1980): Red DPP pigment for automotive coatings.
Ciba-Geigy (1994): DPP-based colour filters (Irgaphor) for LCD.
BASF (2018): DPP-based polymers for OFET in Flexible Displays.
Breakthrough in UV filters for personal care: UV-A 320-400 nm; UV-B 280-320 nm.
UV-A penetrates deeply into living skin (epidermis/dermis): Erythema and Melanoma.

Data creams and sunscreens
Of 1500 molecules, 10 moles used for process, pilot plant for product and registration in 2000. This molecule has a turnover of 150 million Euros.
Genetic skin types: Response to UV radiation in sunlight. Melanin is our natural protectant.
Thermoplastic Urethane (TPUs) for dense foams: They developed for sport shoes of Addidas.
Material expertise TPU: Particle foam know-how; Innovation E-TPU (250 kg/m3).

High-tech TPU material (Serendipity): Infinergy – A new high-tech material based on E-TPU. Most of innovation comes from serendipity. You have a finding which is surprising, objective and the organisation allows you to look at the finding and from there new products come out. Researcher must be careful because such is not checked.

Successful leadership: We need leaders in universities, business and politics who are emphatic; trust and confidence in own people; risk taking and failure culture and empowerment and directed autonomy and perseverance. Scientist should come up and tell us what to do because young people with good education have good ideas. Every organisation has limited number of funds, lot of projects. If you stop, it gets difficult and waste money without result. Failure is common and cannot be avoided.

Question/Answer:

  • Prof. Pandit complimented it was an outstanding presentation covering the gamut of issues and problems which are faced not only by textile chemicals but chemical industry. He wanted to share the presentation with larger audience, and people think in terms of how to carry out sustainable research activity in chemical sciences. Chemical Engineering Curricula is likely to undergo change and bring many aspects of sustainable manufacturing, sustainable technology as integral part of syllabi from undergraduate level rather than end of pipe solution. Sustainability should be integrated in the curricula for the people to realise its importance. Could you share your presentation?
  • Dr. Dietmar answered that sustainability cannot go away in next 10 years or so that change the life of one and all. He suggested sending him a request to enable him to share the presentation.
  • What is the latest innovative product or molecule from BASF for textile application?
    Textile is limited in BASF (DyStar was their company), no such product lines. They participate in paper chemicals. Product life cycle, merge new products, high profit of PDT; lose patents and declining of product life cycle. Textile dyestuffs and chemical products are seen as commodity business.
  • Textile is contributor of pollution and global organisations like BASF are vacating the textile R&D space. Any specific reason? They are not in the field and hence no special focus anymore. Paper, dyes, cotton textile industry, they have huge experience in running them. Sewage plants make sure that they do not have any pollution into the river or ocean. Like paper making, textile has industrial activity with critical points. Cibacron dyes, direct dyes in water and cotton with clear exhaustion, reactive dye did not cause polluted water. Existing technology is about optimising dyeing processes taking the right product and heading sewage treatment plants and everything is done with sustainability and water purification. India is putting in lot of efforts to prevent or reduce the impact of these industries to the environment and to water.
  • Before developing a new chemical, are there alternatives to avoid waste after end use and achieve circular economy?
    What was considered as a production process to make it safe, do not have health issues for the workers. Final product is not toxic. In cosmetics, everything ends up in sewage in water. The new product replacing old product has much better profile and they look from cradle to grave, recycle products and intermediate. It is critical in the plastic field to make plastics, which is frozen oil, liquid again and make new plastics out of it. This is perfect example of circular economy. Recovery of naphtha is from plastic pollution from waste plastics. Proposing Vote of Thanks, Prof. R. R. Deshmukh, Registrar offered thanks to one and all for attending the Dr. M. V. Nimkar endowment memorial lecture. He thanked Dr. Dietmar Hueglin for delivering excellent talk explaining the new normal and circular economy.

Thanks are also due to Prof. Pandit, Ullhas Nimkar and Prof. Adivarekar for their support in conducting the Endowment Maiden Memorial Lecture.