Picosun Develops ALD-enhanced Processes for Chemical and Pharmaceutical Industries
Picosun Ltd, Finland-based global manufacturer of state-of-the-art Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) systems, takes part in Polycat, a major 2010 -2014 EU funded research project aiming at reducing the environmental footprint of chemical and phar-maceutical industries by studying methods towards creating zero-waste processes. The European Union has allocated seven million euros from its 7th European Research Programme for the ten million euro budget of Polycat.
Picosun's industrial partners in Polycat include Thales Nanotechnology from Hungary, Ehrfeld Mikrotechnik, Bayer Technology Services and Evonik Degussa, all three from Germany, Sanofi-Aventis from France, and a Ukraine/Russia –based joint venture by German Süd-Chemie and Estonian Alvigo. Polycat's scientific partners include prominent universities and research institu-tions from Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Polycat is coordinated by the Institut für Mikrotechnik Mainz, in Mainz, Germa-ny.
Picosun's speciality as part of Polycat is in the process development for catalyst preparation and, towards 2014, increasingly also in process optimization and scale-up for industrial scale use.
The production of most industrially important chemicals involves catalysis. Similarly, most bio-chemically significant processes are catalyzed. According to estimates 90% of all commercially produced chemical products involve catalysts at some stage in their manufacturing process. In 2005, catalytic processes generated about $900 billion in products worldwide.
"Thus far the technology of ALD has not been recognized for its full potential when it comes to catalysts. Through Polycat, Picosun will be able to create a whole new approach to creation and use of catalysts, and introduce ALD enhanced production techniques to chemical and pharma-ceutical industries," says Juhana Kostamo, Managing Director of Picosun.
Polycat has ambitious goals. It aims at improving the competitiveness and sustainability of Euro-pean chemical industry through two key innovations. First innovation is a new class of polymer-supported nanoparticle catalysts with their embedment in innovative microstructured flow chemistry reactors. The second innovation is a modular, least-investment-cost plant in container format (so-called 'Factory of the Future'). The development of highly efficient heterogeneously catalysed fine-chemical processes owes several process advantages, most notably reducing the use of solvents and eliminating reaction steps.
Polycat also aims at improving the yield of processes, reducing the product costs by at least 10 % and cutting piloting times by almost a third. An important goal is to reduce process waste by 40 % through elimination of metal leaching into the products. To allow maximum performance, process control is of utmost importance and the process innovation needs to be supplemented and mirrored by plant innovation. Thus, the new catalysts in the new reactors have to be em-bedded in the new plant architecture.
According to a rough estimate on the total economic impact of Polycat, the micro-economic im-pact within an estimated timeline of five to ten years is valued at 25 to 100 million euro, and the macro-economic impact of indirect value-creation scenarios by transfer of technology are esti-mated to reach 100 to 500 million euro within a timeline of 10 to 15 years.
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