An incubator to carry breakthrough innovations
In order to develop new materials and bring them to fruition, the Arkema Group’s R&D Division has put in place an original structure: the incubator. Innovations developed in this incubator can originate in in-house research or in technologies acquired from startups.
In chemistry, innovation is the fruit of medium and long-term projects whose application prospects require development over several years.
The role of the "incubator" is to identify products with a high potential and bring them to fruition. Sale and marketing is then taken care of by the relevant business units.
Develop innovative materials in house
Within this original structure with its own technical and financial resources, researchers and scientific directors are charged with developing nanomaterials and new generation polymers. These innovations prepare the future of the Group, and are poised to completely transform many application sectors.
Arkema produces and markets multiwall carbon nanotubes (CNTs) under the tradename Graphistrength®. These are added in very small quantities to polymer materials, concrete, or composites to impart outstanding mechanical and electrical conductivity properties. Arkema is one of only two European producers of CNTs with its 400 tonne pilot plant at its Mont facility in France.
The Nanostrength® technology is based on acrylic copolymers able to organize themselves on a nanometric scale when added in small amounts to a polymer matrix. As a result, the polymer acquires a combination of properties that would normally not be possible, including impact resistance together with a degree of elasticity even under moist conditions. They are used to produce composite materials, adhesives, and automotive glazing.
A new family of grafted polymers, Apolhya® combines the properties of polyamides with those of polyolefins. It ensures superior resistance to heat and impact, as well as greater flexibility. These polymers are used in the engine compartment of cars, as a protection layer, replacing rubber or plastics which are less able to withstand high temperature. They are also used in cable manufacture and in other applications requiring excellent flame resistance.
PEKK (polyether ketone ketone) is an ultra high performance polymer with exceptional resistance to high temperatures (up to +260°C), chemicals, abrasion and fire, combined with excellent mechanical properties.
These characteristics make it ideally suited to particularly exacting applications:
- in aerospace to replace metal in mounting and fastening components, insulating parts, and interior fittings,
- in very deep oil exploration wells where temperatures and pressures are high, to protect the electronics of logging probes.
Acquire startups and technologies
The acquisition of high added value SMEs or startups enables the Arkema Group to build up positions in high-tech markets. The companies Piezotech and AEC Polymers are some of the latest acquisitions now hosted within the incubator. Thanks to the material resources provided to them and the know-how of the Group’s experts, they operate in a environment that is favourable to their application developments.
In 2013 the Arkema Group acquired a 60% stake in AEC Polymers, a French SME specializing in methacrylate "structural adhesives". This acquisition has positioned the Group in industrial adhesives, which are expected to grow rapidly thanks to their outstanding performances.
These "structural glues" used in boat building, automotive, and wind power, are characterised by their excellent mechanical strength. They can replace welding and other assembly techniques that are often complex to execute, while reducing production costs and the weight of products. Thanks to Arkema’s Nanostrength® technology, AEC Polymers has developed methacrylate glues with unrivalled properties: the SAF® range.
These adhesives are among the most effective "structural adhesives" on the market and feature excellent properties in terms of: breaking strength, elasticity, strength in moist environment and straightforward use.