BASF presentations in Yokohama: Ionic liquids – Unique materials open up new applications
BASF will make two presentations at the Second International Congress of Ionic Liquids (COIL), which is taking place in the Japanese city of Yokohama from August 5 to 10, 2007. For the second year in a row, COIL will provide a broad overview of the latest developments in this field.
Dr. Uwe Vagt, a member of the new business development team responsible for ionic liquids in BASF’s Intermediates division, will focus on industrial applications for these unique products. Since 2001, BASF has gained broad expertise in this area. By establishing the BASILTM process in 2002, it achieved a first milestone in the industrial application of ionic liquids. BASIL is the first chemical process worldwide that specifically employs this new product group. “Thanks to our experience and the distinctive properties of ionic liquids, BASF has now developed a large number of promising applications,” says Vagt.
Dr. Eric Uerdingen, who is also a member of the new business development team, will concentrate on possible uses of ionic liquids in processing cellulose. Building on a technology licensed exclusively from the University of Alabama, BASF has developed the first high-performance process that allows pure physical solutions of cellulose to be produced in an inert solvent. As Uerdingen explains: “It opens the door to a broad spectrum of ways to reshape and process cellulose, which in turn is expected to promote much more widespread use of this valuable raw material. Already, ionic liquids can be used to spin cellulose fibers whose properties are comparable to those produced by conventional means.”
On account of their unique set of characteristics, ionic liquids are potentially suited for numerous applications and are thus attracting increasing attention. Today, they are viewed as promising alternatives in chemical reactions and separation processes, as well as in processing metals and polymers – especially biopolymers such as cellulose. Ionic liquids also currently serve as electrolytes in electronic devices, and as engineering and functional fluids in a broad range of applications.
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Major contribution to eco-efficiency
Using the BASIL process (Biphasic Acid Scavenging Utilizing Ionic Liquids), BASF was the first company to transfer ionic liquids from laboratory to commercial dimensions. An eco-efficiency analysis has demonstrated that BASIL is much more effective than conventional methods at scavenging acids in the chemical synthesis of phosphorus compounds. Compared to the amines generally used in such reactions, the BASF process, which is based on 1-methylimidazolium, is both less expensive and better for the environment. As Vagt notes: “Especially in view of REACH, the new EU regulation on chemicals, eco-efficiency and toxicological factors are playing an ever greater role. Ionic liquids can make a major contribution here. We believe that they will open up a constant stream of entirely new areas of application above and beyond the classical chemical applications.”
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Ionic liquids: Benefits for cellulose
With an estimated volume of around 700 billion tons, cellulose is the most common naturally occurring organic chemical compound on earth, and is thus a very significant renewable raw material. Of the 40 billion tons produced naturally every year, only 100 million tons are actually utilized as raw materials in refinement processes. Thanks to ionic liquids, physical cellulose solutions can be produced for the first time in an inert solvent. This opens up virtually unlimited possibilities, and above all the chance to make much greater use of this valuable and renewable raw material.
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