BASF Research 2021 press conference: Sustainability begins in research
“The transformation to sustainability starts with research,” said Maas-Brunner. BASF is very well positioned here and has a unique research and development setup with around 10,000 employees worldwide. “To meet the challenges of this transformation at an even faster pace and be successful over the long term, we need to further strengthen customer proximity and leverage our Verbund of know-how,” added Maas-Brunner. For this reason, the company is reorganizing its global research activities in the coming year. The business-related research units, which until now were part of the three research divisions, will be integrated into the operational divisions and thus more aligned with customer needs. In the future, BASF will consolidate relevant research activities for several divisions into a central research division with a global presence.
BASF has set itself ambitious sustainability goals. The company wants to further accelerate the development of CO2-free processes and a circular economy as well as the expansion of digitization. In addition, BASF supports its customers in the transformation towards greater sustainability: In total, BASF invested around 2 billion euros in research and development in 2020.
The transport sector represents a substantial part of global CO2 emissions. The transition to electric mobility can reduce these emissions. For this to be successful, innovations are needed, for example to shorten battery charging times, increase safety and make electric vehicle production processes more sustainable and efficient.
Chemistry will play a key role here: the chemical content of an electric vehicle (EV) is considerably higher than that of a vehicle with an internal combustion engine. This is because many other components of electric vehicles change due to the modification of the powertrain. BASF’s research and development is continuously working on innovative products for electric vehicles, such as battery materials, high-performance plastics, modified coolants and new coatings.
Plastics, for example, make an important contribution to the safety of electric vehicles. For example, they are used to achieve stable shock protection and safe electrical distribution, as thermally conductive adhesives and for color coding high voltage components and connectors.
A new coolant from the Glysantin® product line is another BASF product that further improves the safety of electric vehicles. It has an exceptionally low electrical conductivity thanks to its new formulation. This means that if the battery is damaged, for example in an accident, the new BASF product will not react with the high voltage battery components. At the same time, Glysantin® ElectrifiedTM offers reliable protection against corrosion in the cooling system of electric vehicles.
Using digital methods, BASF researchers have also developed a new version of their CathoGuard® cathodic electrolytic coating (e-coat) specially designed to meet the demands of electromobility. It allows application at lower temperatures, thus reducing CO2 emissions while maintaining the same product properties. In addition, the technology meets established sustainability standards as it is free of tin and hazardous air pollutants and contains only a low level of volatile organic compounds.
BASF research is also working on solutions for sustainable agriculture. Farmers face major challenges: feeding a growing global population that will reach 10 billion by 2050, changing weather conditions due to climate change, safe and effective pest and weed control amid increasing resistance as well as limited natural resources and arable land. Innovations – ranging, for example, from new seeds and traits to new crop protection products and digital applications – are therefore urgently needed.
Wheat is one of the most important grains in the world, with a volume of over 770 million metric tons per year. The wheat yield is to be increased significantly in the coming years. This will be more difficult to achieve due to limited arable land and poor harvests caused by climate change. Through a worldwide breeding program tailored to local needs, BASF is developing a new hybrid wheat with value-added characteristics for increased yield and quality as well as resistance to disease and insects. Using diverse genetics from key regions of the wheat crop, BASF researchers select the best plant traits from genetically distinct parental lines. With this, the company responds to the needs of farmers and partners throughout the value chain to enable stable yields as well as better climate resilience.
To optimize crop production, BASF has developed an intelligent plant modeling platform that provides precise agronomic recommendations based on continuous data analysis. It deals with economic, biological and sustainability parameters to provide digital agronomic advice to farmers, enabling them to achieve efficient and environmentally friendly agricultural crops. Platform data is used in various products of xarvio® Digital Farming Solutions. For example, in Smart Spraying developed with Bosch, the data is combined with high-tech camera sensors and software to apply herbicide to weeds only where needed. Field trials show that this combination of technologies can save up to 70% volume of herbicides. This represents an important contribution to the protection of the environment while providing financial benefits to farmers.
Changes in research design – the shift from sequential research to parallel research – also represent a pioneering approach to sustainable innovations. With this methodology, products and applications are developed holistically from the start and sustainability aspects are taken into account from the early stages of R&D. BASF has thus successfully developed the new fungicide Revysol®. This active ingredient from the triazole chemical class demonstrates strong biological performance against a number of relevant fungal diseases. At the same time, it meets all the requirements for a safe and environmentally friendly application.
Livestream and more information about the presentations during the research press conference at: basf.com/research-press-conference