Lanxess Celebrates World Rubber Day
On September 12 the specialty chemical supplier Lanxess AG celebrated the 100th anniversary of synthetic rubber. The patent for the substance that would later significantly benefit the tyre world was granted exactly a century earlier to German chemist Fritz Hofmann, an employee to Lanxess predecessor company Elberfelder Farbenfabriken. To mark the occasion, Lanxess held a scientific colloquium in Cologne, Germany. More than 400 guests from 18 nations attended the event in order to learn more on the latest innovations in the field, the substance’s future possibilities and its market potential.
“Synthetic rubber more than deserves this attention and this forum,” said Lanxess AG Board of Management chairman Axel C. Heitmann during his welcoming speech. Nobody could have predicted, he continued, that the product would still be so successful a hundred 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,” he commented, adding that today synthetic is undoubtedly the company’s most important product.
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. “We must look even further ahead and begin to dream if we want to prepare ourselves for the future”, said Michelin Group managing partner Didier Miraton. Visions, he continued, were of major importance for the tyre manufacturer, as 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 tyres 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,” commented Miraton.
Reducing fuel consumption and achieving maximum vehicle reliability are the most important challenges for the automotive industry of the future, Daimler Trucks AG Board of Management member Georg Weiberg told the colloquium. Daimler’s objective was to cut fuel consumption 20 per cent by 2020 through a range of technological improvements that includes improving tyre rolling resistance and developing special wheel trims.
During the colloquium’s discussion round, Horst Wildemann, professor at the Technical University in Munich, suggested that the industry still has “a growth potential of five to nine per cent in Europe for synthetic rubber.” Fritz Katzensteiner, managing director of the German rubber industry association WDK, said there are still wide-ranging possibilities for expansion, most of all in the automotive industry. He commented on the enormous potential synthetic rubber holds, 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.