Responsible use of nanotechnology at Evonik
As one of the world’s leading specialty chemicals companies, Evonik has always placed considerable importance on research and development as a means of keeping the company sustainable in the years to come. For Evonik, nanotechnology represents a key technology with considerable economic relevance, both because it is generally important in a variety of production processes and products, and because it can potentially be used in such a broad array of chemical applications.
Taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by nanotechnology and using this technology responsibly will allow us to grow new business while supporting sustainable development. While nanotechnology helps us develop new products and efficient solutions for our customers, it also makes important contributions toward environmental and climate protection, health, and product quality.
Experience and expertise
To utilize the potential of nanotechnology, Evonik Industries can draw upon the company’s comprehensive, in-depth expertise in particle technology, as well as its decades of experience in manufacturing and handling finely divided materials such as synthetic amorphous silicon dioxide (also known as silica), aluminum oxides, and titanium dioxides. These exist in the form of relatively large aggregates and agglomerates 20 to 50 micrometers in diameter, which are formed in the production process by the coalescence of nanoparticles smaller than 100 nm. In the case of silicas, independent nanoparticles no longer exist, having coalesced in the clustering process to aggregates or agglomerates ; metal oxides also form stable aggregates of this kind. However, the umbrella term "nanomaterials" is frequently applied to all these substances. For special applications, Evonik also provides low-dust formulations (e.g., dispersions), some of which contain nano-objects in the form of aggregated particles smaller than 100 nm. Evonik also researches technologies for generation of layers in the nanometer range.
Safety and environmental protection
Exercising environmental responsibility and protecting the health of our employees and customers are integral components of Evonik’s business culture. We only produce and market nanomaterials if we can manufacture and use them in a safe, environmentally sound manner using our current technology. As part of these efforts, Evonik adheres to the international principles of responsible care.
When manufacturing nanomaterials, we provide the best possible protection for people and the environment by using closed production systems and additional technical tools, such as filters, vacuum equipment, and, when necessary, personal protective equipment. To ensure that these efforts are effective in the workplace, we perform particle counts at regular intervals and provide routine medical care by site physicians.
Using verifiable management systems we ensure that measures for improved environmental protection as well as for the necessary protection of our employees’ health are in place and effective.
We exercise extreme care and use the latest findings when checking the safety of our products. As part of this process, Evonik uses its Chemicals Management System (see "Chemicals Management System") to conduct risk analyses on all of its products. The actions we take to protect employees, customers and users who handle nanomaterials are based on the findings of scientific hazard and risk assessment research and on epidemiological and toxicological studies. In addition, we also work closely with leading research institutes to support the establishment of new experimental methods designed to investigate the specific effects of nanomaterials. Methods such as these will allow us to refine our risk assessment process.
Transparency and dialog
Evonik maintains an open dialog on the opportunities and risks of applied nanotechnologies, providing transparent information on the nanomaterials the company produces and uses, and accepting our share of responsibility within the value-added chain. REACH specifications and our obligations within the framework of our Global Product Strategy (see "GPS") define the minimum requirements for this transparency. This means maintaining open lines of communication within the product chain and providing the public with information that is comprehensible to a wide audience.
In addition, Evonik also advocates making nanotechnology transparent for society at large, and participates in discussion forums and dialogs with consumers, environmental groups, government agencies, and international committees.
Evonik is aware that products based on new technologies can only become firmly established if they are accepted by society. For this reason representatives from Evonik participate in the German Federal Government’s NanoDialog program. At this forum, business and technology experts as well as representatives from regulatory authorities and industry associations exchange views on the opportunities offered by nanotechnology and measures for avoiding possible risks.