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Nature inspires BASF researchers in developing innovative materials


* Scientists from around the world meet in Strasbourg for the BASF symposium “Bio-inspired Materials for the Chemical Industry”

08/08/06, More than 130 scientists from leading universities in Asia, Europe and the USA will meet together with BASF researchers at the company’s invitation on Aug. 7 to 9, 2006 at the Institut de Science et d’Ingénierie Supramoléculaires (ISIS) in Strasbourg for the scientific symposium “Bio-inspired Materials for the Chemical Industry”. Materials that behave like spider silk or mussel adhesive, structures resembling gecko feet and biominerals, and plastics made from renewable raw materials will be presented.

“Materials generated in the course of evolution in the biological world are a source of illustration, inspiration and stimulation for the development of new materials with novel properties by chemical research and industry. This is a most timely theme for a Symposium”, explains chemistry Nobel Prize winner Professor Jean-Marie Lehn, Director of ISIS. Many natural systems with complex structures exhibit an astonishingly high level of adaptability, resistance and eco-efficiency. Such observations stimulate the creativity of the chemical industry in developing improved or fundamentally new materials. In these endeavors, interdisciplinary synergies arise between synthetic chemistry, material science and biology.

“Many exciting examples can be given to explain how we can use nature as a source of inspiration to develop intelligent solutions of high economic relevance”, comments Dr. Stefan Marcinowski, Member of the Board of Executive Directors and Research Executive Director of BASF. “Learning from nature means understanding how chemistry, biology and physics interact in producing outstanding phenomena. Nature presents us with a vast number of possibilities. Their technical application is not just limited to agricultural products or pharmaceuticals. Especially outside these established domains there is still a huge potential for bio-inspired innovations, as our symposium impressively demonstrates.”

Innovations result on the one hand from a directed search for intelligent solutions to an existing problem. For example, consumers wish to have stain repellent surfaces that reduce cleaning effort and thereby also contribute to protecting the environment. With the leaf of a lotus plant, nature shows us what structural characteristics a surface has to have before physical forces provide precisely the desired stain repellent effect. BASF puts this knowledge to good use with the innovation Mincor®TXTT, a textile coating for fabrics used in making tents, awnings and sunshades.

But it also works the other way round: researchers can technically reproduce one of nature’s brilliant “inventions” and then search for an application beneficial to man. Scientists now understand why butterfly wings are resplendent with color although they contain no dye. Light scattering on highly organized surface structures produces the “color without dye” effect. A dye that works on this principle will never lose its color fastness. BASF researchers have succeeded in producing a flexible dispersion film that changes color when stretched because the defined distance between the polymer beads in the dispersion changes.

BASF maintains a laboratory at ISIS which exemplifies the symbiotic relationship between academic basic research and industrial application research. This makes it particularly suitable as a location for such events. Founded on April 1, 2003, the institute currently has nine employees working under the supervision of Dr. Volker Schädler, among other things on developing nanoporous materials. These novel foams provide distinctly better thermal insulation than conventional insulating materials. In this way BASF is helping to make housing more energy efficient in future while maintaining the same level of comfort.

Note for editors:
Pictures of the event may be requested when the symposium is over.


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