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4th March 2019, Amsterdam

Interview with Johan Landfors, MD of polymer chemistry at Nouryon

Johan Landfors. © NouryonAhead of JEC World in Paris, Inside Composites spoke to Johan Landfors, managing director of polymer chemistry at Nouryon – a speciality chemicals company with a new name and a long history.

Please tell our readers a little about Nouryon.

Joahan Landfors: AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals was relaunched as Nouryon in October 2018 following the acquisition of the business by The Carlyle Group and GIC, and marking the company’s transition to becoming an independent, global speciality chemicals leader.

Nouryon has a history that stretches back nearly 400 years and its new name and brand identity reflect that heritage. Noury & Van der Lande was one of the first companies to realise the important role chemistry could play in everyday life. Today we are a real world leader in essential chemistries used to manufacture everyday products such as paper, plastics, building materials and personal care items.

Nouryon is headquartered in Amsterdam and has about 10,000 employees operating in over 80 countries around the world. As AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, we built up a wealth of expertise, forged long-term partnerships and earned a place among the best performing companies in our industry in terms of safety, sustainability and reliability. Now that we’re Nouryon, we’re putting an even greater focus on what it takes to be a global speciality chemicals leader.

What are your key products for the composites industry?

JL: We develop curing systems for unsaturated polyester and vinyl ester resins. Nouryon is also the only company with a real cobalt alternative. Customers have paid much more attention to this solution since the recent classification of cobalt octoate by members of the Cobalt Institute (CI) and the Cobalt REACH Consortium. The biofibre part is just an example of the additional benefits of this portfolio

We are also a leader in the production of organic peroxides with a broad portfolio of products for the composites industry.

What are Expancel Microspheres, what do they do and could you tell us a little about your partnership with Lantor in the use of them in composites for the wind industry?

JL: Expancel Microspheres have a dual functionality as a blowing agent and lightweight filler. The microspheres consist of a thermoplastic shell encapsulating a gas. When heat is added they expand dramatically, up to 60 times their original volume. Used in composites, Expancel brings several advantages including cost-effective increases in stiffness, weight reduction, flexibility and compression resistance, along with the ability to produce excellent surface finishes.

Expancel Microspheres have a dual functionality as a blowing agent and lightweight filler. © Nouryon

Expancel Microspheres have a dual functionality as a blowing agent and lightweight filler. © Nouryon

Lantor is a leader in nonwoven solutions for composites and has partnered with us for over 30 years, bringing new innovations to the market. The company’s patented products, Coremat and Soric, for composites, contain Expancel Microspheres and are used in a wide range of industries from boats and supercars to wind turbines. The Expancel team enjoys a close working relationship with Lantor which leads to innovations in new processes. The energy-saving and sustainability benefits of our microspheres are also key factors in helping our partners remain market leaders in composite materials.

One area of success for Lantor has been in onshore and offshore wind power, where the length of blades on wind turbines is increasing to capture more energy – with the longest blades measuring more than 80 metres – and more composite materials are required for manufacturing.

Lantor is now dedicated to developing more efficient material solutions for the wind turbine market.

Nouryact is another key Nouryon product used extensively in natural fibre-based composites for the automotive industry. Can you expand on where it is used and what it does?

JL: The use of natural fibres is predominantly limited to the car industry where polypropylene is used as the matrix material. There is also widespread use of natural fibres in epoxy resins. In unsaturated polyester (UP) resins, the use of natural fibres has been difficult because the water content in the fibres deteriorates the curing process. The fibres therefore need to be dried first. This is an elaborate step as it requires an oven, which is costly in daily operation, and a large amount of energy consumption, which has a negative impact on CO2 footprint.

As AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, Nouryon built up a wealth of expertise in speciality chemicals. © Nouryon

As AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, Nouryon built up a wealth of expertise in speciality chemicals. © Nouryon

In addition, dried fibres need to be stored in confined conditions to avoid absorbing moisture when exposed to air. For this reason, the use of natural fibres in UP resin composites has only been successful in small end products.

To address this issue, Nouryon successfully introduced a range of Nouryact accelerators which are not sensitive to water when curing UP resins. This gives an advantage to our customers who work in moist conditions and use wet filler materials, such as non-dried natural fibres. Nouryon has also successfully shown that structural composites based on non-dried flax fibers and different grades of UP and vinyl ester (VE) resins can be produced in a vacuum infusion process.

Natural fibres like flax are known to contain up to 12% water and curing composites based on such water-rich reinforcements is challenging, if not impossible, when using standard cobalt-based curing systems. Cobalt carboxylates are prone to hydrolysis under the influence of water and then become unreactive for the curing process.

Laminates, made with wet flax fibres, and Nouryact have proved to have the same mechanical properties as dried flax fibres in combination with a traditional curing system.

One area of success for Lantor has been in onshore and offshore wind power, where the length of blades on wind turbines is increasing. © Nouryon

One area of success for Lantor has been in onshore and offshore wind power, where the length of blades on wind turbines is increasing. © Nouryon

Curing with Nouryact accelerators allows our customers to easily switch from glass to flax fibres while maintaining mechanical properties and drying flax and keeping it in confined storage is not necessary. In fact, the mechanical properties of the non-dried flax fibre composite using UP or VE resins are similar to an epoxy-based laminate using dried fibres produced under the same conditions. Since the pre-drying and separate storage of dried flax fibers is no longer needed, it makes the use of these natural fibres easy and cheap.  

At JEC World in Paris, you will be introducing some new products. Can you say anything about them at this stage?

JL: Next to the focus on our new company name our main themes are the alternatives for cobalt offered through our Nouryact line, our updated Vanishing Red formulation and our new BPO Powder, Perkadox GB-50.

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