Energy efficiency is the “single biggest” trend for an MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocyanate) producer, Nick Webster, vice president EAIME Polyurethanes, Huntsman noted.
Energy efficiency: Key Trend in 2013
With the drive for building insulation deeply embedded within EU policy, there is huge potential in 2013, Webster said. Huntsman aims to work with its customers to realise the benefits of ETICS (external thermal insulation composite systems), which he said offer “a tremendous window to open up polyurethanes broadly into the renovation of residential buildings.” The European Technical Approval Guideline 004 describes ETICS as “a set of construction elements consisting of certain (specified) prefabricated components,” including adhesive, insulation material, base coat and accessories.
Webster said that the ETICS guidelines are quite demanding, but if Huntsman can make polyurethane a viable option – “and I’m quite hopeful we can” – then there is real potential for expanding “the scope of the market space in polyurethanes, for bringing in demanding performance standards.” Making ETICS a reality for the polyurethanes industry will open up new market potential for the next 5-10 years, he commented.
Joachim Wolff, head of Polyurethanes at Bayer MaterialScience, also spoke of the importance of energy savings. In 2013, BMS sees that the reduction of emissions and the conservation of
resources will play an ever-increasing role in major industries such as automotive and construction. Building insulation is a major part of BMS’s EcoCommercial Building programme, Wolff noted, and the company is also working on developing nanocell rigid PU foam for refrigerator insulation. Currently, it has reduced diameters to the range of micrometres but wants to take this further in 2013.
“For similar reasons – climate protection and the conservation of resources – there is a growing demand for lightweight automotive parts,” Wolff noted. In 2012 BMS introduced the Bayflex lightweight PU system, which it says can further reduce the weight of automotive body parts while retaining their mechanical properties. The system has a density of 0.9 kg/l, making it lighter than water, Wolff said.
“[Lightweighting] really plays to polyurethanes advantages,” Webster said. In 2012, Huntsman’s focus was on its composite resin Vitrox, for which it won the Centre for the Polyurethanes Industry’s PU innovation award for cure-in-place pipe repair applications. But Vitrox has potential for automotive applications also.
“We have high hopes for Vitrox as a vehicle for mass-market automotive parts,” Webster said, adding that the adoption of new technologies “doesn’t happen overnight in the automotive sector,” even though they are keen for innovation. Huntsman is working with Frimo to develop a solution that brings together its resin technology with Frimo’s experience in material processing. At the Frimo Forum in September 2012, the companies had a demonstration rig set up for attendees to view (see pic). Webster said they are working with a number of OEMs and the companies have their sights set on gaining commitment for serious scale part production.
“I expect to see the first results in terms of commercial sales have [in 2013], but I fully appreciate that this is a process that will take a number of years to build up step-by-step,” he concluded.