75 years of Oppanol® "Successful past, promising future"
Oppanol®, one of the many successful products from BASF, is celebrating its 75th birthday. Its applications range from chewing gum, adhesive plasters and double-glazing sealants through to cable insulation, roofing sealants and protective coatings applied to pipelines.
BASF patented a manufacturing process for polyisobutene (PIB) in 1931. The product was later given the name Oppanol® after the Ludwigshafen suburb of Oppau, where it was developed. However, it would take another seven years of research and development work before Oppanol® could be produced on an industrial scale. The success story began when the first Oppanol® plant went into operation in 1938. Chemists have always been fascinated by the unique properties of Oppanol®: it is transparent, it is impervious to water and many different gases, it is resistant to chemicals, it is physiologically harmless and it also has adhesive properties.
Oppanol® is a synthetic hydrocarbon that is manufactured by polymerising isobutene. Its consistency ranges from a highly viscous liquid to a rubbery solid. “We differentiate between low molecular weight, medium molecular weight and high molecular weight PIB. BASF is still the world’s leading manufacturer of all three grades of polyisobutene”, said Dr. Thomas Wettling, who manages the Oppanol® plant at BASF in Ludwigshafen.
The exceptional properties of Oppanol® are reflected in the wide variety of its applications. The food industry is one of the largest consumers of medium molecular weight PIB, because Oppanol® is a vital ingredient of chewing gum base. Oppanolâ is a very versatile polymer that can be used in a wide variety of products such as double-glazing sealants, cable sheathing and protective coatings for pipelines.
High molecular weight PIB is mainly used in the manufacture of adhesives and sealants. For instance, flat roofs that are sealed with Oppanol® are able to resist extreme climatic conditions for decades. Oppanol® can also be employed in medical applications such as adhesive plasters because of its excellent compatibility with the skin.
Apart from Oppanol®, BASF also supplies low molecular weight PIB under the Glissopal® trademark. Additives derived from low molecular weight PIB improve the performance of all types of engine fuel and lubricants.
Oppanol® is employed in many different branches of industry, and world-wide demand is continuing to grow. The production plant for medium molecular weight PIB that was started up in 2002 is already running at full capacity. “We recently decided to invest in increasing the plant’s capacity because of the high level of demand. We will then be able to produce 18 000 tonnes of medium molecular weight PIB each year instead of 12 000 tonnes at present”, said Rüdiger Mackenthun, head of the global Performance Chemicals for Automotive and Oil Industry business unit at BASF. The extended capacity is due to come on stream in mid-2007. It is also planned to increase capacity for low molecular weight and high molecular weight PIB.
“The raw materials for Oppanol® are produced in various different plants at BASF. This vertical integration guarantees the availability of the raw materials and ensures that it always fulfils high standards of quality. This is appreciated by customers all over the world”, said plant manager Dr. Wettling. “Oppanol® has always been very successful in export markets. There are distribution centres in almost every part of the world to ensure that Oppanol® is available everywhere”, said Rüdiger Mackenthun.
However, BASF does not intend to rely on its past achievements, and it will continue to work towards making new advances. “We are continually striving to enhance the quality of Oppanol® and to refine the production technology even further”, said Rüdiger Mackenthun. After 75 years, the future for Oppanol® looks just as bright as its distinguished past.
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BASF Performance Chemicals – always one idea ahead!
The product range of the BASF Business Unit Performance Chemicals for Automotive and Oil Industry includes engine coolants, brake fluids and other specialized fluids, mineral oil dyes and markers, refinery chemicals, diesel and gasoline additives, low molecular weight polyisobutene (Glissopal®) and medium and high molecular weight polyisobutene (Oppanol®). Our products are marketed worldwide. We are one of the leading suppliers in these fields. Further information on our products can be found at www.basf.com/automotive.oil.
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