Chemical Week: November 2005

Nanophase Technologies, a technology leader in nanomaterials and nanoengineered products, and Alfa Aesar, the research chemicals unit of Johnson Matthey, jointly announce the formation of a mutually exclusive partnership to supply selected nanomaterials for a variety of research and development applications. Alfa Aesar is well-known in the global research community and will be distributing research quantities of Nanophase's nanomaterials. Alfa Aesar currently plans to distribute approximately twenty-two Nanophase products, as nanoparticles and nanoparticle dispersions, to a global customer base that includes companies and academic institutions through their various sales and marketing channels.

Nanophase has historically offered research quantities of nanomaterial products for early stage research and development in addition to supplying metric ton quantities for commercially established applications. Nanophase's research materials business is one facet of the Company's business development activities and is intended to promote the use of its products in novel application development for long-term growth opportunities. Under the terms of the partnership, research quantities of selected nanomaterials and nanomaterial dispersions will be marketed in the new nanomaterials sections of the Alfa Aesar Catalog of Inorganics, Organics, Metals, and Materials to global customers via 12 million catalogs and Alfa's well-known website.

"Melding the strengths of Nanophase's integrated platform of nanomaterial technologies and delivery capabilities with Alfa Aesar's global marketing and distribution business is an ideal arrangement for building a stronger global market awareness of Nanophase's nanomaterial solutions," stated Ian Roberts, vice president of U.S. & International Sales. "This partnership is synergistic with Nanophase's market partner approach and leverages our sales and distribution capability by adding a world-class promoter of research materials. We anticipate that the partnership will significantly increase Nanophase's research sales, accelerate nanomaterial market penetration and application development, and contribute to Nanophase's revenue growth."

"Alfa Aesar is continually looking to add to its extensive product portfolio, and partnering with Nanophase allows us access to their cutting-edge technology and product lines," stated Barry Singelais, Director, Research Chemicals. "The Nanophase products will complement our existing high purity inorganic product line, and will give our customers a new line of nanomaterials for their research. Alfa Aesar will stock these products in our global distribution centers, allowing for same-day shipment to our customers."

Nanotechnologies Inc. (Austin, TX) is one of the few commercial startup nanomaterial companies. It has partnerships with several firms to develop applications for its nanoscale metals and oxides, and recently received an undisclosed equity investment from Air Products (CW, June 18, p. 17). Sales are expected to jump from $60,000 in 2002, to $1.2 million this year, and the company is on target to break even by first-quarter 2005, says Dennis Wilson, founder and chief technology officer.

Wilson got the idea for Nanotechnologies in 1999 when he was a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas (Austin). The plasma process can produce fine-tunable nanoparticles, and also has the advantage of being able to produce nanoscale metals, a much less crowded market than nanoscale metal oxides, Wilson says. He proposed the idea to a group of well-heeled local businesspeople—”CEOs of IPOs”—which became “angel” investors, providing $4 million to get Nanotechnologies off the ground. “They took me under their wing and made me into a businessman,” Wilson says. The company raised another $6.2 million financing in 2002.

Nanotechnologies has since expanded to a total of 25 staff, and it recently hired a seasoned industry executive, Randy Bell, as CEO, who has focused on developing partnerships targeted at high-value end-use markets. Deals include a partnership with Essilor (Charenton-le-Pont, France) to develop a nanoscale oxide-based optical coating, and one with AcryMed (Portland, OR) to develop the market for nanoscale silver antimicrobials. The deal with Air Products will target markets including electronics, Wilson says.

“We chose to work with Nanotechnologies because of its unique process, which produces outstanding metal and metal oxide nanoparticles,” says Jeffrey T. DePinto, business development manager/ nanotechnology strategies at Air Products. “Its technology is scalable and economical, and provides great potential value for high-growth markets in our performance materials division,” DePinto says.


Japan Chemical News: November 2005

International distribution rights for the first nanotechnology based, anti-bacterial/virus/fungus spray has been acquired from its Japanese inventor Daido Steel/Asukatec Inc by Roseland LLC. Currently in use in the Japanese market, Japanese tests have shown that the spray, called Nano-Zapp, is more effective than other sprays against, among others, staphylococcus aureus, salmonella, tuberculosis and influenza. From its La Jolla, CA, based office, Roseland's president William T Grant confirmed that Roseland's distribution rights include US, Canada, Mexico, Central America, South America, and Europe. Nano-Zapp is currently being prepared for review and registration with the US' Environmental Protection Agency. When approved, Nano-Zapp may be added to the product mix of major industries that will commercialize Nano-Zapp for public, professional and industrial markets. Among these are major companies that now sell conventional antibacterial products.

In the Japanese tests, Nano-Zapp was effective for weeks and even months longer than conventional anti-bacterial and anti-viral agents. Mr Grant said that further tests are being conducted in Japan using Nano-Zapp against SARS, and Avian flu. In addition to its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral applications, the product also provides deodorizing effects. Nano-Zapp is currently being used in Japanese hospitals, nursing homes, ambulances, hotels, schools, athletic facilities, food processing facilities, restaurants, spas, kennels, trains, buses, airplanes and cruise lines. It is also sold over the counter for consumer use in homes. The Japanese tests indicated that the product can also be mixed with paint to provide a lasting barrier against bacteria, fungus, virus and mildew on all hard surfaces. Nano-Zapp consists of a unique combination of photo catalytic-titanium dioxide and silver ions that in Japanese tests, have been found lethal to an extremely broad spectrum of harmful bacteria and viruses, while leaving the "good bacteria" unharmed. The product has been approved for use by Japan's Society of Industrial Technology Antimicrobial Articles (SIAA) as well as Japan's Research Institute of Tuberculosis, the Japan Anti-Tuberculosis Association, and the Japanese Food Research Laboratory.


High Performance Plastics: November 2005

Royal Group Technologies of Canada has unveiled Celucor, a natural fibre reinforced plastic that is claimed to have enhanced mould and weather resistance, making it suitable for use in decking and porches. Celucor is made of natural fibres encapsulated within cellular PVC and covered with a weather-resistant thermoplastic resin, eliminating issues related to natural fibre reinforced plastics such as water absorption and mould growth.


Plastic Additives & Compounding: September/October 2005

The aesthetic and low maintenance properties of wood-plastic composites are continuing to drive growth in wood replacement applications. Volumes are growing, both in North America where the market is well established, but now in Europe where it is now starting to get a foothold.

The global wood and natural fibre composites (WPC) market was 771 million KG (1.7 billion Ibs) in 2003, says Jim Morton, partner at Principia Partners. Nearly 85 % of the WPC market is in North America, primarily due to success in building product applications. The North America market will continue to experience double digit growth from 2003 to 2010, says Principia. The decking market was the original driver for WPC growth, and continues to account for nearly 65 % share of the WPC market. WPC decking is estimated to have penetrated nearly 15 % share of the WPC market. North American WPC producers are seeking to translate WPC into other building product areas, such as fencing, trim board, windows and roofing and siding.

The European market was 65,000 tonnes in 2003 of which 36,000 tonnes was in automotive applications. WPC in Europe is too expensive since Europe lacks a large, established market to provide economies of scale such as the decking market in the US, says John Nash of Applied Market Information.

Building code regulations and standards were established around existing materials and are not necessarily applicable to WPC, notes Mr Nash. In North America, the newly formed Composite Fence, Deck and Railing Manufacturers Division of the American Fence Association (AFA) will be working on WPC standards. The European committee for Standardization known as Comite European de Normalistion (CEN), through its working group 13, is also looking at WPC test standards.

Additives improve properties and processing

WPC producers are seeking improved products, with focus on physical retention, colour retention and mould and mildew resistance. Because the WPC industry is relatively young, the long-term, 10-20 year durability of outdoor products like decking is still being proven in the field. “The industry is more aware of long term degradation issues and is taking steps to prevent problem by using additives,” says Bill Crostic, president of WC Consulting.

Biocide use to control mold and mildew in WPC decking is growing, driven both by consumer complaints of surface staining or discoloration and by concern for long-term durability. Several manufacturers have announced the addition of antimicrobials to their products, notes Ciba Specialty Chemicals, which provide Irgaguard® F Antifungal additives for WPC. Consumers expect mould and mildew protection as part of the WPC ‘low-maintenance’ requirement.

Our consumer research shows that consumer satisfaction is linked to aesthetic and visual cues like discoloration or staining. “WPC decking manufacturers are beginning to see biocides as a means of protecting their brand reputation” says Chris Springer, market manager for WPC biocides at Rohm and Haas Company. ”In WPC decking, staining is caused by surface fungi. Surface fungi are treated with a broad-spectrum biocide that is effective in both plastics and wood applications,” explains Mr. Springer.

Rohm & Haas recently introduced two new Vinyzene DCOIT-based formulations that are designed to provide efficacy against surface fungi in WPCs. While surface fungi cause visible mould stains, decay fungi can eat away at any wood portion throughout the composite that is not fully encapsulated by plastic, causing the type of wood rot typically seen in unpreserved wood decking, says Mark Manning, manager of preservation technology at U.S. Borax. Laboratory test show decay fungi can cause 10-20% weight loss, indicating a potential problem for long-term durability, he explains. Borax’s Borogard® ZB zinc borate preservative protects the wood in WPC against decay fungi as well as inhibiting surface mould growth. Borogard ZB also slows down the effects of UV degradation, says the company.


Chemical Marketing Reporter: October 2005

Ozone naturally forms high in the atmosphere as a result of a reaction between solar radiation and oxygen. But, as long as it is carefully controlled, ozone can be produced artificially while still retaining all of its effective properties. And there are an increasing number of manufacturers taking this on board in a bid to introduce ozone as a valuable technology in healthcare environments.

Ozone - also known as activated oxygen - is around us more than we think. Already it is used extensively as a disinfectant in the food production industry, a water purifier (most swimming pools now use it instead of chlorine), and as a means of eliminating odour in washrooms. But despite clear evidence that it can kill 99.999% of all germs - including superbugs MRSA - it has yet to break into the public healthcare hygiene industry.

According to manufacturers, products which harness ozone are not particularly expensive. Dick Cardis, marketing director Atlas, creators of OTEX (a new laundry system which injects ozone into wash cycles) claims that "because this product works using cold water, small quantities of detergent and short cycle times, in some situations it can actually save more money than the cost of the system. Some markets are using it purely to make a cost saving, while others are willing to pay the extra to have complete bacteria-kill."

Taking care of the elderly

One healthcare sector that has begun to make use of ozone technology is that of private care homes for the elderly, where products such as OTEX are already in use following approval by the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI). 

Although the existing NHS guideline published in 1995 -HSG(95)18 - recommends thermally disinfecting hospital linen by washing at 71 C for 11 minutes, this is based on previous recommendations set out before 1980 when cases of MRSA infections were still relatively rare. Tests have shown this temperature is insufficient to destroy Clostridium difficile.

Conversely, ozone injected continuously throughout the wash process has been proven in independent scientific tests to destroy all traces of the superbug. Aside from bed linen, ozone in laundry clearly has other valid healthcare applications including medical staff uniforms and mop heads. 

Its power as a disinfectant is not disputable, its cost seemingly not an issue, and it has been long-accepted as a medical treatment for gangrenous wounds. There is however, some concerns about health and safety, since ozone gas is known to be harmful to humans in large doses. As David Kent, chief executive of Ozone Industries - a company that principally manufactures ozone air purifying equipment - explains: "The important thing with ozone is knowing how to control it. This has always been a tricky beast - you can't store it, it has to be produced there and then by a machine and as soon as it is made it begins turning back into oxygen. Also, because ozone is a powerful oxidant, if the machine is metal all it will do is eat it away - so the machine has to be made properly. Until now, there has been a lag whereby the kit hasn't been as good as the ozone itself."

With systems that use a 'fogging' method to ozonate the air in a room environment, the safe occupational exposure limit at which humans can be present - no higher than 0.2 parts per million - must be observed. As Kent explains: "For disinfection, two parts per million of ozone is needed to kill 99.9% of all germs including MRSA. Although this means people cannot be present, ozone disappears rapidly and does not leave behind residue, so a room can be in use again very quickly.

"Sanitisation, meanwhile, can be achieved using 0.05 parts per million. The ideal place for this application - in which 90% of bacteria are killed and people can be present - would be in doctors' and hospital waiting rooms, where there is a constant flow of people."

According to Dave Adams, technical director at CIProcess: "Ozone will take a while to go through the motion of approval, but once proven through trials it will become used on a widespread basis - whether this is in the short or long term remains to be seen. "Ozone can be applied in a way that reaches every surface within an environment, and this coupled with its bug killing abilities should make it a valuable weapon in this crisis. "