The photoinitiator Ciba® IRGACURE® 819 is used to cure clearcoats for outdoor applications containing light stabilizers.

BASEL, Switzerland - An interdisciplinary team received the Ciba Specialty Chemicals R&D Award 2006 for developing a new synthesis technique that makes photoinitiator production safer, more efficient and environmentally more sustainable.

Chief Technology Officer Martin Riediker commented, “This work is of fundamental significance for our scientific understanding of phosphorus chemistry, and it gives Ciba Specialty Chemicals a sustainable advantage in producing phosphorus-based photoinitiators. These products are particularly suited for photo-induced curing of thick and pigmented coatings as well as clearcoats for outdoor applications containing light stabilizers.”

The key advance involves reacting a phosphorus-derived starting material with sodium metal, which significantly improves on earlier methods by simplifying the process and increasing yield. The team has showed that the synthesis is both safe and robust, allowing dosage and temperature control of all process steps.

Professor Jean-Marie Pierre Lehn, a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry and a member of the board of directors of Ciba Specialty Chemicals, presented the award at this year’s Research & Development Conference in Basel, Switzerland. Despite earlier experience suggesting that a sodium-based process would not work, the award-winning team used sodium to synthesize the main precursor of the photoinitiator Ciba® IRGACURE® 819. Routine production with the new technique began at Ciba Specialty Chemicals’ Schweizerhalle plant in August 2006.