• Specialty chemicals group LANXESS stages scientific colloquium in honor of Fritz Hofmann, who invented synthetic rubber 100 years ago
• 400 guests from 18 nations attend the anniversary celebrations in Cologne
• Technical papers and discussions with renowned speakers from the worlds of politics, business and science
Online PR News – 15-September-2009 – – Mumbai, September 15th– Yesterday, on Saturday, September 12, LANXESS AG, one of the world's leading suppliers of high-performance rubber, celebrated the invention of synthetic rubber by chemist Fritz Hofmann exactly 100 years ago by staging a scientific colloquium with high-ranking speakers in Cologne. Over 400 guests from 18 nations attended the event, which was held in the Gürzenich Banqueting Hall, to learn more about the latest innovations, the future possibilities and the market potential of this versatile material.
“The future of synthetic rubber has only just begun”
“Synthetic rubber more than deserves this attention and this forum”, said Axel C. Heitmann, Chairman of the Board of Management of LANXESS AG, in his welcoming speech. No-one could have predicted, he continued, that the product would still be so successful 100 years later. “We are building on the versatility and outstanding chemical properties of this material because we know that the future of synthetic rubber has only just begun.” This synthetic material, Heitmann said, had opened the door to numerous innovations in previous decades – in automotive engineering, energy generation, medicine, sports, and even the aerospace industry. “You may not see it, but it is there more often than you think!” There is no doubt, he added, that synthetic rubber is the most important product for LANXESS today.
During the day-long colloquium, 14 high-profile speakers from the worlds of business, politics, and science discussed how the successes of the past can be transferred to the future, what importance rubber has today as a precursor to other industrial applications and what development and production potential can be harnessed in the future.
Learning from the past
“In North Rhine-Westphalia we are proud of this patent and proud to have a company like LANXESS”, said Andreas Pinkwart, Minister for Innovation, Science, Research and Technology of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. The foundation stone for synthetic rubber was laid in 1909 by a chemist called Fritz Hofmann when he discovered the elastic material methyl isoprene. On September 12 of the same year – 100 years ago yesterday – the Imperial Patents Office granted Hofmann's employer, the Elberfelder Farbenfabriken, a patent with the number 250690 for the “process for the manufacture of synthetic rubber”. “Rubber has such an important future because companies like yours have succeeded time and again in modernizing it”, said the Minister, addressing the LANXESS CEO directly. “You recognized that innovation drives the future, and you have even raised your research budget by 10 percent in what is a very difficult year. That is certainly a courageous decision.” To secure its future, he said, Germany needs clever minds. “And education is nothing other than converting money into knowledge.” At that time, the empire invested large sums of money in colleges and universities. “If Germany wants to remain world export champion – or at least vice champion – we cannot allow our schools to be positioned only halfway up the league. We must become the best in education again, and that means spending money on it.”
Jochen Homann, Administrative Secretary of State at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, encouraged LANXESS to further expand its research and development activities to strengthen Germany as a location for industry. There is probably no other country, he said, in which the prosperity of society is so dependent on industry as it is in Germany.
The chemical industry is a problem-solver for social challenges
Ulrich Lehner, President of Germany's Chemical Industry Association (VCI), sees outstanding development potential for synthetic rubber and its applications. “Synthetic rubber is an excellent example of how chemistry can help change people's lives.” Lehner stressed the importance of the chemical industry in Germany and went on to say that “with its many innovative products, it is a key problem-solver when it comes to social challenges, and will remain so in the future.” He was referring to areas such as climate protection, the health and nutrition of an aging society, the availability of resources and mobility in general. “We can therefore consider ourselves fortunate to be home to such a strong chemical industry. It is one of the most innovative sectors we have in Germany.”
Synthetic rubber is kind on the environment and enhances comfort
Reducing fuel consumption and achieving maximum vehicle reliability were the most important challenges for the automotive industry of the future, said Georg Weiberg, a member of the Board of Management of Daimler Trucks AG. Daimler's objective was to cut fuel consumption by 20 percent by the year 2020 through technological improvements. Lowering the weight of the vehicles, improving the rolling resistance of the tires and developing special wheel trims also play an important part in this, he said. Furthermore, synthetic rubber assumes a key role in reducing noise and damping vibrations, not only helping the environment but also enhancing drive comfort.
Companies must begin dreaming
“We must look even further ahead and begin to dream if we want to prepare ourselves for the future”, said Didier Miraton, Managing Partner of the Michelin Group. Visions, he continued, were of major importance for tire manufacturer Michelin. A company can only know what has to be developed in the future if it is also aware of the needs and wishes of tomorrow's customers. “We recognized that fuel-saving tires would be important for mobility in the future, and have therefore been working on this for 15 years.” It is essential, he continued, to keep moving forward because mobility and people's needs are constantly changing. “For this reason, progress has no limits”, he said, with Michelin in mind.
Synthetic rubber still has enormous potential
In the discussion round, Horst Wildemann, Professor at the Technical University in Munich, suggested that development teams should be bold enough to explore new avenues having already spent 100 years with this flexible material. “We still have a growth potential of five to nine percent in Europe for synthetic rubber”, he said. Fritz Katzensteiner, Managing Director of the WDK – the Association of the German rubber industry – said there are still wide-ranging possibilities for expansion above all in the automotive industry, but also in medical technology and sports. “The potential in Germany is still enormous”, he said, adding that the main challenges were the development of new, environmentally friendlier substitutes for rubber production, the breaking down of international trade barriers and man's changing mobility.
LANXESS is a leading specialty chemicals company with sales of EUR 6.58 billion in 2008 and currently 14,335 employees in 23 countries. The company is represented at 46 production sites worldwide. The core business of LANXESS is the development, manufacturing and marketing of plastics, rubber, intermediates and specialty chemicals.
Leverkusen, September 13, 2009
This news release may contain forward-looking statements based on current assumptions and forecasts made by LANXESS AG management. Various known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could lead to material differences between the actual future results, financial situation, development or performance of the company and the estimates given here. The company assumes no liability whatsoever to update these forward-looking statements or to conform them to future events or developments.
Information for editors:
100 years of synthetic rubber – interesting information about the anniversary and the numerous application areas of the elastic all-rounder can be found at http://www.worldrubberday.com/.
You can find further information concerning LANXESS chemistry in our WebMagazine at http://webmagazine.lanxess.com/.
All LANXESS news releases and accompanying photo, video and audio material can be found at http://press.lanxess.com. Current photos of the Board of Management can be found at http://imagebase.lanxess.com/.