"Nanotechnology is a key to new product properties, and therefore to new and profitable markets." With these words, Dr. Manfred Spindler, member of the management board of Degussa AG, opened the recent NanoTech Day at the specialty chemicals company in Hanau-Wolfgang, Germany.

Worldwide nanotechnology-based sales revenues in the year 2010 are conservatively estimated at EUR 220 billion. This corresponds to a doubling of revenues in the next five years, with materials accounting for a share of approximately EUR 62 billion in 2010. On the NanoTech Day, 120 scientists discussed the innovation potential of nanotechnology, which ranges from particles synthesis to polymeric formulations. "With the technology platforms developed over the past three years in our Functional Polymers Project House, we now have the technology for novel product properties also in the field of polymer materials," says Dr. Spindler.

For three years, the 21 members of the Degussa project house have been working on the nano-enhancement of materials properties, which is not achievable with conventional technologies. Initially it was necessary to understand the interaction of polymers with nanoparticles, and to develop techniques for uniform and stable distribution of nanoparticles in the polymer matrix. The project house then used this knowledge in three areas: in laser-processable materials and scratch-resistant surfaces and in stretching the thermo- mechanical-envelope of plastics.

For example, the project house researchers have also been successful in the area of scratch-resistant surfaces. They have improved the scratch resistance of coil coatings by up to 20 percent. Coil coatings are used in a variety of applications including façade coatings for office buildings, shopping centers and gas stations, and also used for household equipment such as microwaves, washing machines and refrigerators.

In total, Degussa has invested some EUR 100 million in nanomaterials research and development in the past few years.