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Elevated to specialty status


80 years of LANXESS zinc oxides:

Much more than a rubber additive

Leverkusen - From its beginnings 80 years ago as a key additive for rubber production, zinc oxide has since developed into a popular specialty chemical with a broad spectrum of application. Zinc oxide from LANXESS, first manufactured at the Uerdingen Chemical Park, Germany, eight decades ago, can look back on an exciting history. And the chemists at the specialty chemicals company have repeatedly tailored it to new applications in recent years. Today zinc oxide products are in demand in industries beyond the rubber industry. From applications in ceramics, various fields of electronics and home and personal care to specialty pharmaceutical and UV protection applications: Zinc oxide products are becoming increasingly important thanks to their special properties.

The desirable properties of LANXESS zinc oxide can be attributed to a special and sophisticated production process that only a handful of manufacturers worldwide have mastered.

LANXESS produces Zinc Oxide Active and Zinc Oxide Transparent – the latter is more accurately a zinc carbonate – using a process combining precipitation and calcination rather than a classic roasting process used by many other manufacturers. In addition to highly consistent quality, this also results in substantially larger specific surface areas (50 to 60 m2/g) and what is for many applications an optimal grain size distribution. For many customers, the low concentration of heavy metal contaminants is another key argument in favor of the products. “Our zinc oxides are now much more than commodity products – they are true specialties,” says Dr. Adolf Sicheneder, product expert of LANXESS.

“Zinc oxide establishing itself in markets outside the rubber sector is largely a development of the recent past.” Remarkable, considering that the production process has, in principle, changed little since its debut in 1931. At the world-scale plant in Uerdingen, the raw materials are elaborately purified, isolated as zinc carbonate in a wet chemical process and then heated in special annealing furnaces to produce the final products. “The optimizations that we have made to the process over the decades are reflected in more than just highly consistent quality,” says Sicheneder. The process enables the LANXESS chemists to adjust the properties of their product and tailor them to the specific application. “We have been refining our process and the products continuously for 80 years, and always in coordination with our customers and in keeping with their objectives.”

LANXESS is a leading specialty chemicals company with sales of EUR 7.1 billion in 2010 and currently around 15,800 employees in 30 countries. The company is at present represented at 46 production sites worldwide. The core business of LANXESS is the development, manufacturing and marketing of plastics, rubber, intermediates and specialty chemicals.

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