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Silane Chemistry Home

Dow Corning launches 'solutions center' in Belgium for its global silanes business

by Patricia Short
June 26, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 26


Dow Corning has inaugurated a long-planned Surface & Interface Solutions Center (SISC) at its European headquarters in Seneffe, Belgium, near Brussels. The company launched the center earlier this month with an opening day event designed to bring customers and suppliers up-to-date on developments in silane technology.

The center is the latest addition to a building that was opened in 2001 as the home of a silicone products business and technology center. Since then, the company has also moved administrative offices, formerly in a Brussels suburb, into the Seneffe building, which is about a 45-minute drive from the Belgian capital.

The event actually started the afternoon before with training sessions on the technology of organofunctional silanes—silicon-based molecules that pair alkoxy groups with amino, epoxy, methacrylate, or other organic groups. Uses for organosilanes include coupling agents, cross-linkers, and polymer building blocks.

The opening day itself featured "what's new in organosilane chemistry and applications." It was headlined by Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, the 1991 Nobel Prize winner in physics. Now an adviser to the president of France's Institut Curie, de Gennes examined the topic of "Adhesion: Chemical Invention and Physics Models."

The primary focus of the day, however, was on applied technology. That gave the program a somewhat different feel from the research-oriented symposium that rival silicon chemistry specialist Wacker sponsors every two years at various European universities.

For Dow Corning staffers, one important feature of the day was that it drew more than 200 participants from some 60 different chemical companies and universities in the European Union, Russia, the U.S., and Australia. "It's a conference to promote interaction between marketing and technical people. We have tried to bring a different kind of balance to it," said Thierry Materne, global silane technology and business development manager.

The new center is a means for Dow Corning to demonstrate its commitment to the commercial silane markets. Until several years ago, the molecules were produced solely for consumption within the company, Materne explained. And internal consumption still slightly exceeds the business unit's external sales, he added.

Production of silanes takes place in Midland, Mich.; Barry, Wales; and Chiba, Japan. The missing link in the company's market-support capabilities was in materials science, said Eric Peeters, director of science and technology for Dow Corning's core products business. "That's why we decided to establish SISC, for technological development and market development," he said. SISC consists of two closely interacting labs, one focusing on materials science and the other on applications. The center has a particular focus on the rubber and plastics industries.

It also offers the company enhanced capabilities to tackle new challenges. Peeters cited two examples. Development of silanes that will not release volatile organic compounds during curing, he said, is one project "we are working on for many customers." The other project is developing silane coupling agents that make biomaterials such as wood or sugarcane compatible with polymers. One use would be incorporating cellulosic fibers into polymers as fillers or reinforcing agents.

"We believe there is a huge potential in understanding the intricacies of the chemistry," Peeters enthused.


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