Heraeus Innovation Awards 2010: Double Victory for quartz glass innovations
The Quarzglas business group celebrated a double victory at the Eighth Annual Heraeus Innovation Awards, held in Hanau in mid-November, 2010. Dr. Martin Trommer, Head of Development at Heraeus Quarzglas in Bitterfeld, won first place in the product innovations category for developing fluorine-doped quartz glass tubes, which enable highly bendable quartz glass fiber to be produced extremely efficiently. The fibers can even be tied in knots without light being attenuated.
Alan Mundy of Heraeus Quartz UK Ltd. in Wallsend, England, took the prize in a new category honoring process innovations. He managed a successful technology transfer that will enable Heraeus to produce more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly high-purity synthetic silica glass, while simultaneously conserving resources. Second place for product innovations went to Dr. Sebastian Vogt in Research & Development at Heraeus Medical in Wehrheim, for a new ready-to-use cementing system for an innovative bone cement used in joint endoprostheses (hip and knee joints). Dr. Stefan Vorberg of Heraeus Materials Technology took third place for a new generation of platinum catalysts (platinum-rhodium wafers) for the fertilizer industry. The prizewinners were honored by Dr. Frank Heinricht, Chairman of the Heraeus Holding Board of Management, and Jan Rinnert, Vice Chairman of Heraeus Holding Board of Management, at a ceremony in Hanau.
„You have once again demonstrated just how important every innovation is for our company,“ said Dr. Frank Heinricht, in praise of the award winners. „Your developments demonstrate the innovative power of our company and form the basis for further developments in the future.“ The Heraeus Innovation Award was launched in 2003. All Heraeus researchers and developers worldwide are eligible to participate. More than 170 product innovations have been submitted since 2003, and a total of 25 products and processes have been honored. This year, 21 projects were in the running. „Heraeus conceived the award to make innovations that are often hidden from the general public visible and at the same time appropriately honor the achievements and talents of the developers,“ explained Dr. Wulf Brämer, Head of Innovation Management at Heraeus.
Product – 1st place: Highly bendable optical fibers made of quartz glass
Heraeus has been manufacturing quartz glass for over 110 years, contributing a great deal to scientific knowledge of this extraordinary material. Today, high-purity silica glass is indispensable for the production of microchips and solar cells. Without quartz glass, there would be no Internet. Optical fibers as thin as a hair transmit huge amounts of data quickly and securely over continents and under oceans. Heraeus manufactures synthetic quartz glass tubes and cylinders, which have been used to produce some 300 million kilometers of glass fiber for optical data transmission technology to date. Dr. Martin Trommer, Head of Development of Heraeus Quarzglas in Bitterfeld, showed that even this highly sophisticated product can still be improved. Previous optical fibers have a limited bend radius, which, if exceeded, attenuates light and ultimately leads to data loss during transmission. Customers can now take advantage of a completely bendable fiber, allowing the superfine glass fibers to be installed in the tightest corners in fiber-to-the-home applications with no data loss. Up until now, manufacturing of these fibers was rather complex and could only be done in small batches. Heraeus' development of customized fluorine-doped quartz glass tubes enables highly bendable quartz glass fiber to be produced extremely efficiently and in large quantities. „We are setting a new benchmark here for the manufacture of bend-insensitive optical fibers,“ states award winner Dr. Martin Trommer.
Product – 2nd place: Working with bone cement now even easier
The demand for hip and knee joint operations is increasing rapidly. Today, doctors implant almost 200,000 artificial hips and 120,000 knee joint prostheses (endoprosthetics) every year in Germany alone. Implanting artificial joints has become routine but still presents challenges, since the success of the operation depends on the secure and long-term anchoring of the prostheses in bone. Heraeus Medical has been developing specialized bone cements and the related mixing systems for many years. Now, with an innovative ready-to-use cementing system, Dr. Sebastian Vogt (Heraeus Medical) has simplified mixing and handling bone cement for doctors and surgical staff. Dr. Vogt and his team have developed a completely new, paste-like bone cement. Previously, bone cement came powdered and had to be combined with a liquid in a vacuum system, then mixed to form a homogeneous paste. Now the innovative paste-like bone cement can be applied directly to the implant site in a patient's hip or knee with a specially-prepared cementing gun. „Thanks to the new system, the surgical team can now work more quickly and efficiently, needing only three or four hand movements to prepare the cement,“ as Dr. Vogt explains the advantages of the award-winning innovation.
Product – 3rd place: New platinum-rhodium wafers improve the catalytic effect for the fertilizer industry
Meeting the world's nutritional needs would be unthinkable without fertilizers. Nitric acid is the most important raw material for nitrate fertilizer production. Since the beginning of the 20th century, this acid has been obtained by burning ammonia over a platinum catalyst. A catalytic gauze of fine platinum wire has been used for this since 1909. The thickness of the wire is comparable to that of a human hair. Since the beginning of this industrial process, Heraeus has been instrumental in driving development of the catalyst. Today’s producers are using gauzes made from platinum-rhodium alloys with diameters of up to six meters. Due to the continuous development of catalyst systems, the yield in nitric acid production has steadily increased over the last few decades. „We have now developed the next generation: highly active wafers made from platinum-rhodium alloys. This new catalyst was developed thanks to close collaboration between the Materials Technology, Quarzglas, and Specialty Light Sources business groups at Heraeus and uses a variety of technologies from each,“ notes Dr. Stefan Vorberg, a developer at Heraeus Materials Technology, in describing the innovation. Advantages of the catalyst wafers include a markedly higher yield of nitric acid and, in turn, fertilizer, when compared to gauzes.
Best Process Innovation: Successful technology transfer for quartz glass manufacturing
Thanks to a successful technology transfer, Heraeus will be able to produce more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly high-purity synthetic silica glass, while also conserving resources. Alan Mundy of Heraeus Quartz UK Ltd. in Wallsend, England, took the prize in a new category honoring process innovations. Alan Mundy is justifiably proud of the commendation: “We are pleased that our innovation helped optimize internal production processes. We're still a new part of the Heraeus family, but we've shown how innovative we can be.“ Heraeus acquired the tradition-rich British quartz glass factory (formerly Thermal Syndicate Ltd.) from Saint-Gobain Quartz in 2008.
Heraeus, the precious metals and technology group headquartered in Hanau, Germany, is a global, private company with over 155 years of tradition. Our businesses include precious metals, materials and technologies, sensors, biomaterials and medical products as well as dental products, quartz glass, and specialty light sources. With product revenues of € 2.6 billion and precious metal trading revenues of € 13.6 billion, as well as more than 12,300 employees in over 110 subsidiaries worldwide, Heraeus holds a leading position in its global markets.
For additional information, please contact:
Dr. Jörg Wetterau
Head of Technology Media & Innovation
Heraeus Holding GmbH
63450 Hanau, Germany
Tel. +49 (0) 6181.35-5706
Fax + 49 (0) 6181.35-4242
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