Five minutes with…
Michael East, Ph.D., Business Development Manager Organic Chemical Products, Tosoh USA, Inc.
Chemistry Today: How is business going for Tosoh and in which areas are you moving?
East: Business is going very well, increasing year by year. Like many Japanese companies, Tosoh has a number of different business lines. Revenues are around 7 billion USD, and we employ 900 people in R&D, which is very high for a chemical company. We started to sell different types of products recently: we are moving more to the coatings market, matting agents, ethylene vinyl acetate copolymers, and low-density polyethylenes. Also, we produce speciality monomers that go into coatings.
CT: What are your classical lines of production?
East: We are fundamentally a chlor-alkali company, one main product is, ethylene dichloride, that can go into polyvinylchloride (PVC) or can be used for ethylene diamines. We are one of the top two ethylene diamine producers in the world and one of the top five PVC makers worldwide. We also offer a variety of other products, for example fluorine, and we are the top bromine manufacturer in Asia.
CT: What kind of processes and technologies are you betting on?
East: We are just developing ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene. That is a very unique material. We are going to launch it in Europe and US in about 12 months, so at this point, I cannot disclose too much, but it has a very low friction coefficient, even lower than PTFE. Applications could go into artificial hips, artificial knees and other industrial slidding applications, combining resistance with lightness. Then, our organometallics catalyst division has just developed what we call solid MAO (methylaluminum oxane). Traditionally in polyolefines they use solution MAO, dried and attached to a silica support to produce a mettalocene catalyst. Our material is just solid MAO, no silica at all, with an activity three times higher than the silica supported catalyst.
CT: Do you employ flow chemistry?
East: Flow chemistry is always of interest for Tosoh since we handle a lot of hazardous chemicals We just mentioned the solid MAO: this is made with organometallic reagents that would be ideal for flow chemistry. Also, we have a fluorination division and fluorine is very, very dangerous. So yes, there is a high degree of interest.
CT: What can Tosoh offer than no one else can do?
East: All chemical companies can do a myriad of things, but Tosoh sticks with what it does well. We have research chemists that look at problems for customers and finds the best solutions for customers.