The chemical industry is a $5 trillion enterprise and contributes in the manufacturing of more than 96% of all products. Hence, any changes made in the chemical industry will have snowballing effects across industries, changing the overall landscape. Recent innovations in polycarbonates is one such example.
Chemical world of polycarbonates, more influential than one may expect
As carbon-fiber replaces metallic bodies, the automobile industry is demanding more innovation. One such innovation comes in the form of polycarbonates. Used for tailored sunroofs, panoramic roofs, and windows, the material is lighter, scratch resistant and a lot more flexible than conventional glass structures. Its ultra-strength and resistance have made it the premier choice of roof-canopies for cars of the future. In Shanghai Auto Show 2017, Renault introduced its concept for the future Formula 1 car. Limited to weigh only 600 kg, the car will be mostly autonomous and its interior will be shaped to desired using 3D technology. As it will reach super-fast speeds and will be mostly computer-driven, the safety of the driver will be ensured by cocooning him in an ultra-resistant polycarbonate canopy. This is to prove that the pioneers of engineering today see polycarbonate as an essential component of the future cars.
However, the use of polycarbonates goes beyond the roofs and windows. As cars go electric, the grills and manual instruments are replaced by screens. As glass is brittle and heavy, the interior screens, as well as panels outside the cars, can be expected to be made completely with polycarbonates. Cavestro is one company that is pioneering this. Presenting their sheets on a Mercedes car in the North American international auto show, the company plans to make seamless polycarbonates front ends for electrical cars. As the sheets are naturally transparent, any series of sensors and lights can be put behind the sheet of polycarbonate to enhance the capabilities, safety features and the look of the car. Collaborating Hella KGA Hueck & Co., Coavestro has also come up with tail lights that can be modified to emit 3D images, hence making cars more stylish and customizable.
Changing the future
Polycarbonates are expected to become the favorite material in the construction industry due to its ease of installation, energy efficiency and variant design options. As the future generation will revamp their lifestyles to include energy efficient products, polycarbonates will replace most of the surfaces of buildings. Moreover, besides being strong, the material is also resistant to extreme weather conditions and wouldn’t need to be replaced as often as traditional materials. Similarly, the availability of its translucent forms will allow a greater penetration and use of natural light without affecting the privacy of the occupants of the house. Buildings having external layers made out of it can also make use the material as thermal insulators hence decreasing energy demands. As per Extechinc, polycarbonates are able to provide an excellent insulation value of up to R-4. All these properties ensure that they are an important material for the buildings of tomorrow.
The recyclable plastic
One of the biggest problems faced by the world today is its dependency on non-degradable plastics. This will change with polycarbonate materials. IBM’s research division has developed an efficient process of degrading and recycling it. In their process, the plastic is recycled without the release of bisphenol A. By introducing new elements into it, IBM researchers managed to recycle it into a new plastic while simultaneously locking all bisphenol A within it. As the repurposed plastic stops any leaching of bisphenol A, it can be readily used for usages such as water purification plants and even medical instruments.
The fact that IBM, a non-plastic company has joined hands with plastic industry to find solutions to the recycling problem is a reflection of the future of the chemical industry. As trends towards sustainability develop, companies will be involved in numerous emerging and partnership endeavors across fields and industries.
Segmentation and Specialization
in the chemical industry
The future chemical industry needs to be intelligent in directing its resources to its most effective capabilities. According to Deloitte, the unnecessary competition is proving costly for the industry. Off the 158 companies profiled in the study, there were 5-10 competitors in each category, each offering the same solutions. PwC predicts that the future chemical industry will be divided distinctly into dominant and niche roles. These trends can be observed already. Syngenta recently agreed to a $43 billion takeover by National Chemical Corp. Bayer has bid $66 billion for the acquisition of Monsanto.
As with other industries, the chemical industry too must shape itself according to the demands of the future customers. The future generation has shown its desire towards sustainability, flexibility, and efficiency. The chemical industry, in its many forms, is catering to this demand. The constant innovation around polycarbonates, its ever-increasing uses in fields across the industry sheds light on the influence of chemical industry in shaping the future.