In 2018, the European Technology Centre (ETC) – ExxonMobil’s research and development (R&D) hub for the EMEA region – celebrated its 50th anniversary. It’s an exciting milestone for a facility with about 14,000 patents under its belt, representing approximately 2,300 unique inventions. A major focus for the ETC’s 200 scientists and engineers is on developing solutions with less environmental impact – and our team have seen game-changing progress in two areas in particular.
Firstly, the team at the ETC have been developing materials which are lightweight. “By having lighter materials you will have a lower footprint while using them,” explains Martijn den Ouden, Operations Manager at the ETC. “A good example is we have been developing advanced polymers to use in cars, instead of steel.” Lighter cars use less fuel, reducing emissions. A 10 percent reduction in a vehicle’s weight can improve fuel economy by as much as 7 percent.
Another big success has been the development of ExxonMobil’s Vistamaxx™ Performance Polymers. Vistamaxx™ helps create products which have less environmental impact, because it allows manufacturers to use more recycled plastic.
Recycled plastic feedstock tends to be low-quality, and it doesn’t always have the right properties to make certain products. Vistamaxx™ allows manufacturers to mix recycled polymers with high performance polymers, to create a blend that has, for example, greater strength and flexibility than using recycled feedstock alone. “Vistamaxx™ acts as a bridge between materials,” Martijn explains, “and brings them together.”
Under a microscope the different layers of a polymer film are clearly visible. “It looks like a big sandwich,” says Martijn.
Incredible advances have been made in polymer chemistry over the last 50 years, but the team at the ETC is always looking forward to what’s next. “What is most exciting now is to look forward to the next 50 years of innovation,” says Loraine Phillips, the ETC’s Site Manager and President of ExxonMobil Chemical Europe Inc. “I see the collaboration and the new ideas and it really gives me confidence that we can come up with the solutions that society needs.”
You can find out more about ExxonMobil’s R&D and our solutions with less environmental impact here and elsewhere on energyfactor.eu.