Covestro’s core business comprises three segments that produce and continuously advance polyurethanes and their derivatives, as well as the premium plastic polycarbonate. Although the portfolio encompasses several thousand different products, they all serve one purpose: To make the world a brighter place.
Polyurethanes - Foam and more
Covestro is a world-leading manufacturer of components for polyurethanes, a class of plastics discovered in 1937 at Covestro’s predecessor company in Leverkusen. Since then, the versatile material has found its way into many areas of modern life. At Covestro, the Polyurethanes segment (PUR) generated sales of EUR 6.1 billion in 2015, making it the largest of the three core segments, contributing over 50 percent of earnings.
Polyurethanes essentially are made from two components, polyol and isocyanate, which Covestro manufactures. Added to that are various ingredients or additives that influence the properties of a final product.
Combining polyol with toluene diisocyanate (TDI) results in a flexible foam. This material has become indispensable in the modern world. It is found in such things as in mattresses, upholstered furniture and automobile seats. Covestro has also developed a process for using the waste gas CO2 as a raw material for flexible foam. A plant in Dormagen, Germany, that is the first of its kind worldwide has been producing a polyol containing about 20 percent carbon dioxide since 2016.
Reacting polyol with diphenylmethane diisocyanate (MDI) results in a rigid polyurethane foam. It is considered the best-available industrial insulating material and reduces the energy consumption of buildings and refrigerators. Rigid polyurethane foam also contributes to such pioneering projects as the Solar Impulse solar aircraft: It made the cockpit shell ultra-lightweight and protected the pilots against outside temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius, far below the freezing point.
Polyurethanes are also used in numerous other applications. Thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) are found, for example, in ski boots and other athletic equipment.
For more information on precursor products for polyurethanes and their applications, click here.
Polycarbonate – The multitalent
The plastic polycarbonate has been an unmatched success story ever since it was discovered in 1953, thanks in part to its many good properties. The material is very lightweight, transparent, virtually unbreakable and easily shaped. The Covestro Polycarbonates (PCS) segment posted sales of EUR 3.2 billion in 2015, equivalent to 26 percent of total sales, and secured a leading position for the company on the global market.
The premium plastic, which Covestro sells primarily under the brand name Makrolon®, is an excellent substitute for materials such as steel and glass. For example, it is used numerous automotive parts, including panoramic roofs, rear spoilers and headlights. It primarily contributes to reducing weight, because every gram of weight saved reduces fuel consumption. The other possibilities it affords are demonstrated by a concept for the car of the future, developed by Covestro for K 2016, the world’s largest plastics trade fair.
In addition, polycarbonate is used in the electronics industry, where it makes laptops ultra-lightweight and is found in many other high-tech devices, such as smartphones, tablets and televisions. Because it is transparent, durable and easily sterilized, polycarbonate is also used in medical equipment, such as dialysis machines. One current property that may become more significant in the future: The material is excellently suited to 3D printing. Covestro is already working together with partners on the best formulations.
For more information on polycarbonates and their applications, click here.
Coatings, adhesives, specialties - for that special, final touch.
The Coatings, Adhesives, Specialties (CAS) segment is the smallest Covestro segment based on its sales of EUR 2.1 billion in 2015. It comprises approximately 17 percent of total sales. Nevertheless, Covestro takes a leading position in this business, supplying over 2,300 products to more than 4,300 customers worldwide. The substances CAS develops and supplies make final products better, more attractive and more durable, enhance their value and give them that special, final touch.
Take cars, for example. With raw materials from Covestro, coatings stay glossy longer, are scratch and weather resistant, and can even heal themselves. New company developments make it possible to produce a coating hardener from 80 percent biomass or to reduce the drying temperature of coatings so much that energy consumption is reduced by as much as 15 percent.
Flooring in private homes and industrial buildings are tougher when protected by polyurethane coatings. For the wood and furniture industry, Covestro makes impregnating products and components for bonding products.
Container ships are protected by coatings against extreme conditions on the open seas. Shoes are held together by adhesives based on CAS products, and personal identification cards offer greater security thanks to coatings and films. The raw materials are useful even in the medical segment, for instance in wound dressings that hold better, are more comfortable to wear and can even integrate electronic functions.