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Heraeus Innovation Award 2014: All facts about the Award ceremony

technology report online, November 2014

With the Heraeus Innovation Award Heraeus honors the Company’s researchers and developers for outstanding ideas and achievements annually since 2003. Winners in 2014 were a new conductive adhesive and an innovative recycling process.

"Heraeus has been specializing in innovations for more than 160 years. We depend on product innovations that add value for our customers. Innovation is vitally important to us, forming an important cornerstone for our future," says Jan Rinnert, Chairman of the Board of Management of Heraeus Holding. In the video of the award ceremony, find out more about the 2014 laureates.

Read more about the winning projects below.

Best Product Innovation: New conductive adhesives with reduced silver content

Daniel Hanselmann

Daniel Hanselmann and team, Heraeus Materials Technology

Conductive adhesives containing silver connect electronic and electrical components in electrical circuits, semiconductor components, smart cards, displays, and sensors. Conventional adhesives require a silver content of more than 70 percent by weight to maintain their electrical conductivity. If an adhesive contains too few silver particles, they can no longer touch each other, and the electrical connection is interrupted. Conductive adhesives play a critical role in electronics, but because of cost pressure, the number of competing technologies is steadily growing.

Daniel Hanselmann and his team have developed a cost-effective alternative. Their innovation replaces the conventional spherical silver particles in the adhesive with lamellar conductive silver particles. These silver flakes are supported and aligned by a scaffolding of less expensive spherical filling materials. With this geometrical 'trick,' – the mixture of conductive and nonconductive particles – Heraeus is able to reduce the adhesive's silver content to less than 40 percent by weight without impairing its reliability and electrical properties.

Best Process Innovation: Innovative dissolving process for catalysts containing palladium

Dr. Christoph Röhlich

Dr. Christoph Röhlich and team, Heraeus Precious Metals

Monoethylene glycol (MEG) is a key component in a number of important modern materials, such as polyester and PET. More than 20 million tons of MEG are used each year around the world. In China alone, demand is rising by 7 percent annually. One source of raw materials for MEG is the coal deposits there. The conversion of coal to MEG involves using catalysts containing palladium. The introduction of this process in China has generated large quantities of spent catalysts, which can be recycled.

Dr. Christoph Röhlich and his team have developed an innovative recycling method that involves a series of processing steps to separate the palladium from the catalyst carrier, attaining nearly 100 percent recovery of the precious metal. Important side effect: In the standard process, the catalyst is melted at more than 1200°C, which destroys the catalyst carrier. In the innovative recycling method the spherical catalyst carrier is retained intact and can be dried and then reused for the production of new catalysts.

2nd place Product Innovation: Innovative materials for OLED lamps

Dr. Armin Sautter

Dr. Armin Sautter and team, Heraeus Precious Metals

Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are highly efficient and provide a pleasant light. An OLED consists of a very thin layered structure just 200 to 500 nanometers thick. As a result, they can be fabricated as transparent displays on flexible substrates, curved and shaped, thereby giving designers of lamps and lighting concepts a great deal of freedom. Despite their many advantages, these lamps are still too expensive to penetrate the mass market.

Dr. Armin Sautter and his team have achieved a breakthrough by developing a new material for producing these thin layers. For a key functional layer on the OLED, the team uses a conductive polymer that can be applied as a thin layer by printing and coating processes, forming transparent conductive films. Unlike previous materials, the product can perform two essential functions of the OLED in a single layer: the injection of positive charge carriers and the function of the transparent electrodes. The combination of this conductive polymer with a printed silver-metal mesh will significantly reduce the cost of producing OLEDs.

3rd place Product Innovation: Production of a temperature-resistant platinum-siloxane catalyst

Jörg Fuchs Alameda

Jörg Fuchs Alameda and team, Heraeus Precious Metals

Labels, medical tubes, baby pacifiers, and special paper coatings all have one thing in common: They contain silicones. High-quality silicones are produced from polysiloxanes using platinum-siloxane catalysts. Heraeus is the leading supplier of these special homogeneous catalysts, which must constantly be adapted to meet the market's evolving demands.

In order to coat paper with a thin layer of silicone, a major Chinese supplier to label manufacturers required a highly temperature-resistant catalyst with good storage stability and processability even at high ambient temperatures. Problem: The standard colorless catalyst slowly decomposes at higher temperatures.

A Heraeus team of German and Chinese developers has come up with a stable variation of the organometallic platinum-siloxane catalyst. The breakthrough involved adding a precisely measured quantity of a stabilizer. The new laboratory synthesis was successfully taken to production scale at Heraeus Shanghai.

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