The 2007 Frost & Sullivan European Technology Innovation of the Year Award in the field of glass manufacturing is presented to Degussa Novara Technology s.p.a (NTECH), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Evonik Industries AG, Essen, and part of its Business Unit Aerosil&Silanes, for its development of a novel sol-gel process called SiVARA® for the manufacture of high-purity silica glass.
The SiVARA® process offers a low-cost alternative to currently used methods for producing silica glass and represents a paradigm shift as it basically deals with working with the ‘sol.Previous attempts to manufacture silica glass using sol-gel routes failed because the silica glass produced was subject to breakage. Degussa Novara Technology has been able to overcome this obstacle and achieve very high geometric reproducibility of its glass objects by leveraging the principle of moulding and gelling of liquids at room temperature.
“Using the SiVARA® technology it is possible to predict the final dimensions of an object with a precision of 1 over 1,000,” states Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Archana Jayarajah. “This high accuracy meets the requirements of many high-end applications and represents a level of precision reachable by conventional techniques only after expensive after-treatments.”
Unlike conventional techniques, the objects produced via SiVARA® do not need after-treatments such as cutting, polishing, or grinding. Further, current techniques for the manufacturing of quartz objects are based on the melting of the raw materials and the pouring of the melt (at temperatures above 1700 degrees C) in moulds. Degussa Novara Technology’s know-how facilitates moulding to be conducted at room temperature. This provides a significant amount of freedom in terms of shape-design and material used for moulds.
“As Degussa Novara Technology’s process is based on formulating a water-based dispersion that can be poured into a mould at a later stage and then densified in an oven, the investment is a fraction of what would be required for quartz produced via conventional techniques,” notes Jayarajah. “Moreover, the SiVARA® process can work by using pre-existing or commonly available equipment, minimising upfront/fixed costs even while the simplicity of the procedure ensures that operational costs remain low.”
Other key benefits provided by the SiVARA® technology include the production of a silica glass which does not foam or produce bubbles when subject to temperatures exceeding 1700 degrees C. The process also enables modification of the sol composition to produce glasses doped in a homogeneous manner for high-tech applications.
“So far, NTECH is the only company that has been able to successfully demonstrate a viable and affordable method for quartz shaping using sol-gel techniques,” concludes Jayarajah. “Several companies have benefited from the nonexclusive licensing of Degussa Novara Technology’s sol-gel know-how to produce high quality quartz for various applications in optics, optoelectronics, crystal fibers, and semiconductors.”
Frost & Sullivan’s Technology Innovation Award is bestowed upon a company (or individual) that has carried out new research, which has resulted in innovation(s) that have or are expected to bring significant contributions to the industry in terms of adoption, change, and competitive posture. This award recognizes the quality and depth of a company’s research and development program as well as the vision and risk-taking that enabled it to undertake such an endeavour.
Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognize companies in a variety of regional and global markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, technological innovation, customer service, and strategic product development. Industry analysts compare market participants and measure performance through in-depth interviews, analysis, and extensive secondary research in order to identify best practices in the industry.