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AkzoNobel and DSM launch BluCure cobalt-free curing technology


Amanda Jacob, Editor, Reinforced Plastics magazine

AkzoNobel and DSM Composite Resins are introducing BluCure™ cobalt-free curing technology for unsaturated polyester and vinyl ester resins. With the use of cobalt-based curing agents currently under regulatory review in Europe, the two companies have decided to combine their respective intellectual property and offer the technology for license to manufacturers of resins and composite products.

The BluCure technology has been developed for users of organic peroxide curable unsaturated polyester and vinyl ester resins and provides an alternative to widely used cobalt-based curing systems.

At a press conference during the JEC Europe 2012 show in Paris in March, DSM Composite Resins and AkzoNobel also unveiled the BluCure quality seal, which manufacturers of composite components can use to show that their products are based on 100% cobalt-free BluCure technology.

Environmental pressure

The driver behind this technology is the increasing legislative pressure on cobalt.

Environmental pressure on cobalt is gaining momentum. In order to stay one step ahead of the legislators both companies have developed eco-friendly cobalt-free curing systems.
Alain Rynwalt, sBU Director Marketing & Sales XTP EMEA, AkzoNobel Functional Chemicals

Cobalt salts such as cobalt octoate and cobalt acetate are widely used accelerators (also called promoters) used to control the cure of unsaturated polyester and vinyl ester resins. A very small amount of the accelerator (0.01 phr) is either incorporated in the resin (to produce a pre-accelerated or pre-promoted resin) or added separately to a non-accelerated resin.

However, there is currently uncertainty concerning the classification of cobalt under the complex new European REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) legislation. Cobalt chloride and cobalt diacetate are already on the Candidate List of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC). SVHCs are chemical substances identified as having hazardous properties to humans or the environment eg. they are carcinogenic, mutagenic or bio-accumulative and toxic. Chemicals on the SVHC list are in line to be strictly regulated within the EU and EEA Member States and their use restricted.

The classification of cobalt octoate is currently under review. The Cobalt REACH Consortium has proposed a testing programme for cobalt octoate to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and is awaiting feedback. This is expected by the middle of this year. According to DSM, there is a chance that ECHA will decide to apply the 'read-across' approach to cobalt octoate ie. cobalt chloride and cobalt diacetate will be used to make predictions concerning the physicochemical, toxicological and ecotoxicological properties of cobalt octoate.

This means that cobalt octoate could become category CMR (carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction) 1B classified and in a second step SVHC listed soon after that change in classification.

CMR 1B classification means that the exposure of workers, consumers and the environment with the substance involved have to be minimised. Chemicals containing more than 0.1% of a CMR 1B substance have to be classified and labelled accordingly. For cobalt salts this limit may even become a factor lower i.e. 0.01% (calculated for the cobalt metal content). For manufacturers of composite parts, this means that the process for obtaining operational permits is significantly more complicated if they continue to work with these CMR 1B substances.

Given this uncertainty, DSM's view is to be ready now with products that are cobalt-free but still provide reliable curing performance.

BluCure

Anticipating increasing environmental pressure on cobalt, both DSM and AkzoNobel have been working independently for several years on the development of cobalt-free resin curing systems. Both companies have filed patents covering many types of accelerator systems and materials. Last year the companies got together to discuss pooling their intellectual property and partnering on this technology in order to offer it to the wider composites industry.

The result is the BluCure  brand.

BluCure products are cobalt-free pre-accelerated resins and cobalt-free accelerators. The products 100% cobalt-free and do not contain any chemical components on the SVHC list.

According to Thomas Wegman, Marketing Manager Europe & Global Markets, DSM Composite Resins, many current non-accelerated resins can be cured with BluCure. However, manufacturers of pre-accelerated resins will need to carry out some 'tweeking' to optimise the BluCure technology for their own systems.

The BluCure technology is available under license to all resin manufacturers. AkzoNobel will be coordinating the licensing.

“BluCure opens up access to leading edge, cobalt-free curing technologies through sub-licensing, providing genuine alternatives to cobalt-based accelerator systems for all composite component and resin manufacturers. BluCure technology offers opportunities for outstanding performance and sustainable end-user value. We welcome other companies to partner up with BluCure as well.
Wilfrid Gambade, President, DSM Composite Resins

Wilfrid Gambade, President of DSM Composite Resins, reports that from now on, all new DSM resins will use BluCure technology.

According to DSM, discussions are ongoing with several resin manufacturers who are interested in partnering up with BluCure.

And it's not only resin companies that can get involved. Manufacturers of composite components are also invited to join in by obtaining a license for using the BluCure Seal on their products. The BluCure Seal guarantees that products are 100% cobalt-free. It can be used on components that are made using BluCure products.

New products

At JEC, DSM Composite Resins launched three pre-accelerated resins under the BluCure brand:

  • Atlac® 580 A 10 vinyl ester resin for use in the hand lay-up, spray-up and filament winding processes;
  • Atlac 580 A 20 vinyl ester resin for the vacuum infusion process; and
  • Synolite™ 7877-P-1 unsaturated polyester resin for use in hand lay-up, spray-up and filament winding.

The company says several non-accelerated DSM resins have also been evaluated with AkzoNobel's Nouryact™ cobalt-free accelerators, which are now also under the BluCure brand.

AkzoNobel and DSM – a good fit

In terms of sustainable growth strategies DSM and AkzoNobel are following a similar path, making this partnership a good fit.

Speciality chemcials company AkzoNobel, headquartered in Amsterdam, intends to grow its business by developing sustainable, innovative solutions to benefit its customers. It's objective is to obtain 30% of its revenue from 'Eco-premium' products by 2015.

It defines Eco-premium as products providing the same or better functionality for customers compared to mainstream products, but which are significantly better in at least one of the following areas: energy efficiency; use of natural resources/raw material; emissions and waste; toxicity; risks for accidents (e.g. production, transportation); and land use (if applicable).

Current Eco-premium products include Nouryact cobalt-free accelerators for curing of unsaturate polyester and vinyl ester resins.

Fellow Dutch company DSM's strategy involves connecting its competences in life sciences and materials sciences to create sustainable value for all stakeholders. It also has clear sustainability targets, aiming for 80% of its product pipeline and 50% of sales to be from ECO+ products by 2015.

ECO+ products are defined as solutions that bring more value with less environmental impact than mainstream competing products.

In the composites industry, DSM's 'sustainable innovation strategy' has resulted in the introduction a number of new products over the last two years:

AkzoNobel has already introduced Nouryact copper-based accelerators and it recently launched Nouryact manganese-based and iron-based products. The company is also working on a new generation of iron accelerators, which is close to commercialisation. All of these are now BluCure products.

The development of BluCure technology meets both AkzoNobel and DSM's strategies for sustainable growth. ♦

 

 

 

 

 

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