It takes place in close collaboration with value chain partners who transform Borealis materials into final products. It requires that Borealis understands all the needs, opportunities and challenges that can occur along the value chain. It involves far more than just thinking about the chemistry – it is about understanding what customers and end users actually do with the products.
For polyolefins, Borealis focuses on understanding the structure-property relationship from the catalyst through to the processing of the final product. At the advanced Borealis laboratories and polymer processing facilities, product development starts with small-scale polymerisation followed by pilot and production scale. The lab-scale polymerisation (approx. 1-3 kg/day) is used for conceptual product development and product screening before semi-commercial quantities are produced in the pilot plants (2.5 t/day) for industrial process validation and final product testing. A full technical release is required before moving these products to commercial polypropylene or polyethylene plants (40 t/h).
In order to achieve this, a multimodal polymer design is employed potentially in combination with post-reactor modification. Alongside mechanical properties and processability, it is also important to consider special functionalities of the end application such as surface quality, paintability, electrical properties, heat resistance, and low shrinkage, among others. Therefore, Borealis has invested in polymer processing and compounding facilities with state-of-the-art equipment in which it can replicate almost the entire polymer processing spectrum used by its customers. This combined with advanced material and application testing as well as analytical and physical characterisation enables Borealis to predict the product performance in the respective application early on in the development cycle.
Digitalisation is also an essential aspect of polymer research and development at Borealis. Modelling and simulation methods such as molecular modelling, computational material science, process modelling, reaction kinetics and CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) are used across the Borealis innovation centres to enhance the material development process and ensure tailor-made solutions for customers. Moreover, further developments in digitalisation in a broader context are underway to further optimise rational and efficient resource utilisation in research and development at Borealis.
In addition to product development, Borealis R&D activities are also focused on plant performance and operational excellence. It is of key importance to understand production processes in detail in order to constantly improve safety, increase output and accomplish sustainable cost leadership. Therefore, Borealis has developed analytical methods, simulation tools and lab-scale pilot plants to study the industrial hydrocarbon processes in small scale. Using these tools in combination with expertise in process technology, process chemistry and strong collaboration with the operational units creates opportunities to exceed today's operational limits.
By investing in research facilities with state-of-the-art machinery, Borealis is also investing in its customers' success, the environment and society as a whole. Bringing new concepts to the market quickly is an essential element of successful innovation. Borealis is committed to improving internal efficiency by utilising high throughput experimentation in combination with advanced modelling and simulation knowledge. By generating more precise material data, Borealis is able to achieve a faster and more competitive approach to material development, while customers can improve their efficiency through more in-depth information about the materials they use.
Borealis is spearheading the transformation of the plastics industry by applying its EverMinds™ philosophy into practice. The Circular Economy Solutions (CES) Innovation Studio was founded in 2019 at Borealis Innovation Headquarters in Linz, Austria, to accelerate the development and launch of market-ready circular solutions. The CES Innovation Studio has become a hub of research and development for novel circular polyolefins-based technologies and solutions and has already produced a range of more circular contributions. Collaboration with value chain partners and other institutions is enabling the “co-creation” of recycled polyolefin (rPO) compounds, applications that are designed with recyclability in mind (DfR), and new recycling technologies.