Monday, 21 October 2013

Following on from Baekeland

A large audience of RSC Belgium members and friends found out about the history and applications of phenolic resins on the evening of 17 October in Tervuren. Gabriele Badini, Research Director of Momentive Specialty Chemicals GmbH also gave us some insights into how research and innovation is managed in the chemical industry.

The venue for Gabriele’s talk was the Hotel Rastelli in Tervuren. This brand new hotel is situated in Hornzeelstraat, Tervuren and had a good sized meeting room adjacent to the bar.

Phenolic resins are synthetic polymers obtained by the reaction of phenol (or substituted phenol) with formaldehyde. They are used in a wide variety of applications from circuit boards to pool balls, and as coatings and adhesives. One of the first phenolic resins was Bakelite – the world’s first 100% synthetic commercial plastic – and brainchild of Belgium-born chemist Leo Baekeland in 1907.

Inspiration and innovation
Baekeland’s initial inspiration in formulating a synthetic resin was to produce a novel and cheap insulating material for application in the then burgeoning electricity supply industry. What he discovered was a material that had literally thousands of applications.

Gabrielle (above) took the audience through a range of applications for modern phenolic resins focusing on their chemistry and uses. Gabriele then described the research behind these products and how industrial chemical companies work to squeeze out new features and develop novel innovative products from chemistries that have been employed for decades.

He looked at how R&D projects are selected, what steps are required to drive an ‘Innovation Culture’ in a company and how the portfolio of R&D projects was managed.

He concluded that getting the right people and developing them to maximise their potential was the secret of success.

The talk concluded with a lively question and answer session.