Munich, Germany – At the 22nd international trade fair for plastics and rubber K 2022 WACKER will unveil industrial-grade silicone rubber compounds whose precursors are derived from plant-based raw materials. Several biomethanol-based product lines under the ELASTOSIL® eco umbrella will be launched, in-cluding one liquid and six solid silicone rubber grades, as well as selected SILMIX® silicone rubber compounds. The use of biomethanol in silicone production helps preserve fossil resources. The K 2022 tradeshow will take place in Düsseldorf, Germany, October 19 – 26.
The chemical industry is committed to continuously reducing its use of fossil raw materials. One strategy here is to replace these with identical materials from renewable resources – an option best implemented using the mass balance approach. This method allows manufacturers to process raw materials from fossil-based and renewable sources at the same time, later assigning them to specific products according to the proportions in which they were used. In this way, the mass balance approach ensures that the “bio-based” label is applied only to those products that can be verified as being based on renewable raw materials.
The most important raw materials for silicone manufacturing are silicon and methanol. Methanol is first converted to methyl chloride and then reacted with elemental silicon via the Müller-Rochow process to form a mixture of various methylchlorosilanes – materials that play an important role in the subsequent production process.
In 2018, production at WACKER began using methanol generated both from petrochemical as well as from plant-based resources. The amount of the latter, which is known as biomethanol, is mass balanced. The method that WACKER employs for these mass-balancing processes is certified at regular intervals by TÜV Nord in accordance with the REDcert2 standard. This ensures that the amount of eco products sold always corresponds to the amount of biomethanol that goes into the process.
The mass balance approach can also be applied to ready-to-use silicone products. In addition to silicone rubber, these products contain pigments and other organic additives – additives that can likewise be offset through the use of corresponding amounts of biomethanol. And speaking of biomethanol: the REDcert2 standard requires manufacturers to obtain this raw material from renewable resources. The biomethanol that WACKER uses in these processes is derived exclusively from plant residues suitable neither for food production nor as animal feed.