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Heraeus Innovation Award 2006: Smart Sensor Sets Standards in Steel Production

17.11.2006
  • New universal composite for perfect dental fillings
  • New coating material increases storage capacity of magnetic data storage media ten times
A fast sensor that makes steel production more efficient, a filling material that restores defective teeth even better and safer than existing materials, and a new production process for a coating material that makes it possible to increase the storage capacity of hard drives ten times: these are the prizewinning developments that have just been awarded the 2006 Heraeus Innovation Award.

Heraeus presented the first prize, 2,500 euros, to Johan Knevels of Heraeus Electro-Nite (Belgium) at a festive event in Hanau. His clever sensor featuring an electromagnetic measurement system is capable of determining the fill level of ladles with molten steel within seconds. The second prize was shared by innovations developed by Dr. Andreas Utterodt (Heraeus Kulzer, Wehrheim, Germany) and Kyung H. Chung (W. C. Heraeus, Chandler, Arizona, USA). The prizewinners received a golden medal embossed with the words “2006 Innovation Award” from Dr. Frank Heinricht, Member of the Board of Management of Heraeus Holding GmbH, and Dr. Jürgen Heraeus, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Heraeus Holding GmbH and the patron of the event.

“Innovations open up new markets, secure existing markets, and can even save companies,” said Dr. Frank Heinricht, underscoring the significance of innovative developments. “This is why we consider the Innovation Award the right way to effectively promote innovations at Heraeus,” he added, mentioning several developments awarded the Innovation Award in the past that have already established themselves as successful products in the market. They include the online RIC method for the manufacture of large fused silica glass preforms for optical fibers for the telecommunications industry and a multiphase catalyst to destroy ozone damaging laughing gas in fertilizer production. Referring to Richard Küch, one of the greatest inventors in the private company and the namesake of the visitor forum in Hanau, Dr. Jürgen Heraeus encouraged this year’s prizewinners to continue their research efforts. “Your fantastic product innovations deserve tremendous recognition. Keep up the good work. Maybe some day in the future there will be a forum named after you.”

The Heraeus Innovation Award was first awarded in 2003. All Heraeus researchers and developers worldwide are eligible to participate. This year, a total of 13 developments were submitted. Heraeus conceived the Innovation Award to make innovations that are often hidden in the company visible and at the same time appropriately honor the achievements and talents of the researchers and developers. In 2006, Heraeus allocated some 58 million euros to research and development. The funds are being put to use efficiently by more than 350 R&D staff members in 25 development centers worldwide. The precious metal and technology group currently has 3,900 patents.

Three Praiseworthy Heraeus Innovations in 2006

1st Prize: “Smart Sensor” sets standards in steel production (Heraeus Electro Nite)

In steel production, the product goes through a variety of different processes. Liquid iron is transformed into steel in converters. The finished steel is tapped by emptying the converter vessel into giant ladles (more than 400 tons capacity) and is then transferred to the next cleaning process. This is precisely where the steel sensor developed by Johan Knevels sets new standards. Optimal filling of the ladle is of critical importance in the tapping process. However, a definite freeboard must be kept available between the top edge of the ladle and the surface of the steel for the next step. An added impediment is that slag is carried along when the steel is poured, making it more difficult to visually estimate the fill level.

The new measuring sensor from Heraeus Electro-Nite solves this problem. Carried on a lance, the single-use sensor automatically pierces through the slag layer at high speed until it reaches the surface of the steel. Using an electromagnetic measuring method, the sensor first measures the distance of the top layer of the slag. The measuring signal declines abruptly as soon as the sensor head contacts the layer of steel. These two signals make it possible to determine the distance from the surface of the steel to the edge of the ladle within two seconds. If the allowable clearance has not been reached, more steel can be automatically decanted into the appropriate ladle during the next filling. Productivity is thus increased by as much as five tons more steel per ladle. This saves time and costs. The latest member of the Heraeus Electro-Nite sensor family is already being used with great success in the steel industry.

2nd Prize: Universal composite for perfect dental fillings (Heraeus Kulzer)

Dental fillings are aesthetically convincing when they are unnoticeable, when they fit in with the natural teeth without attracting attention. The denser the filling material can seal the tooth defect without being subject to significant shrinkage, the longer the functionality of the tooth is preserved. The filling materials established in the industry today also have to withstand the impact of chewing on a sustained basis and have to be biologically compatible. An innovative new universal composite with nanotechnological know-how (nanohybrid composite) developed by Dr. Andreas Utterodt of the dental specialist Heraeus Kulzer has all of these qualities. The material is cured with blue light and in part consists of entirely new ingredients developed at Heraeus Kulzer. It is characterized by significantly reduced shrinkage, can be employed universally for incisors and molars, is extraordinarily resilient due to improved mechanical characteristics, and at the same time is easy for the dentist to process.

2nd Prize: New coating material increases storage capacity of magnetic data storage media ten times (W. C. Heraeus)

Hard drives and magnetic data storage media in computers have to be able to store incredible data volumes today. The special, metallic alloys used for data storage are deposited on the data storage media as wafer-thin layers with the aid of sputtering targets. The composition and structure of the coating materials consisting of various metals determines the storage capacity. W. C. Heraeus is a world market leader in the production of these targets with more than 1,600 different alloys. Kyung H. Chung has now developed a new production process for alloys consisting of cobalt, platinum, chromium, and ceramic components with a special microcrystalline structure and special magnetic properties. These new sputtering targets make it possible for the hard drive industry to reliably produce the latest generation of storage media (vertical recording) with storage densities that are between five and ten times greater than in the past.

Heraeus, the precious metals and technology group headquartered in Hanau, Germany, is a global, private company in the business segments of precious metals, dental health, sensors, quartz glass and specialty lighting sources. With revenues of more than EUR 9 billion and more than 10,600 employees in over 100 companies, Heraeus has stood out for more than 150 years as one of the world’s leading companies involved in precious metals and materials technology.

Heraeus Holding GmbH
Dr. Jörg Wetterau
Manager Technologiekommunikation
Konzernkommunikation
Tel: +49-6181-35 5706
Fax: +49-6181-35 4242
E-Mail: joerg.wetterau@heraeus.com

Dr. Jörg Wetterau | Heraeus Holding GmbH
Further information:
http://www.heraeus.de

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