The increasing importance of elastomers, thermosets but also cross-linked thermoplastics has hardly escaped anyone's attention. With its own research group fully focused on these types of plastics, the German Plastics Center (SKZ) wants to further expand its research and education activities. The group "Crosslinked Materials" is therefore one of the younger research groups at SKZ. The focus is on material development, compounding and process development in the field of thermoset moulding compounds, powder coatings and elastomers.
Dr. Andreas Köppel is the Group Manager of the new research group "Cross-linked Materials" at SKZ (Photo: SKZ)
Andreas, why do you devote yourself to cross-linked materials, which are only a niche market?
Andreas Köppel: Cross-linked plastics are more present than one might think at first glance. The classic elastomer applications such as seals and tyres, the classic fibre composite materials or many paints are examples of this. Due to new technical challenges in areas such as electromobility, renewable energies, electrical engineering and medical technology, this type of plastic is also becoming increasingly important. For example, increasing demands for weight reduction in the context of the CO2 discussion, especially in the automotive sector, are increasingly leading to the substitution of thermoplastic materials and metals with inexpensive and temperature-resistant thermosets. Elastomers are also indispensable and highly innovative materials that can be found in almost all areas of daily life, even beyond seals and tyres. The topic of silicone elastomers is also particularly exciting, where new material developments are of great interest, especially for medical technology, as well as automotive and electrical engineering. So there are a lot of exciting issues for interesting research projects and industrial projects. Personally, what fascinates me about cross-linked materials is the diversity of materials and properties, as well as the challenging preparation and processing compared to thermoplastics.
What specific topics are you currently tackling, and what have you already been able to implement in the first time?
Andreas Köppel: We are currently working together with the European Centre for Dispersion Technologies (EZD), our site in Selb, on the development of antimicrobial and antiviral powder coatings. Furthermore, we have already carried out innovative projects in the field of highly filled thermoset moulding compounds and silicone elastomers together with industrial partners. The focus of our projects is therefore on material development, but also on process development in the field of cross-linked materials. Here we are always happy to receive enquiries from industry. Another focus is currently the application for publicly funded research projects. For example, we have submitted applications to further expand our work on topics such as recycling, renewable raw materials and fuel cells in the future.
What are the plans for the future?
Andreas Köppel: At the moment, the focus is of course on working on and applying for research and industrial projects. Personally, I am very interested in the field of silicone elastomers. I hope that we will also be able to build up new know-how in this area and thus also advise our customers. Soon there will also be some very exciting projects. But I can't reveal too much here yet. In addition, we also want to create more educational offers on cross-linked materials in the future. The first courses on thermoset processing are already in the portfolio, but it will definitely be expanded over the next few years.
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