Plastics News - Show Daily - October 19, 2022 - 11

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Plastics News, October 19, 2022 * 11
Ionkraft plasma technology solves barrier packaging recycling issues
IKV
By David Vink
Plastics News Correspondent
One of the exhibits at the booth
of Aachen, Germany-based IKV
Institute of Plastics Processing
is a plasma-enhanced chemical
vapor deposition (PECVD) coating
machine developed at IKV by
its research staff over a 10-year
period. The equipment is running
live and showing how it can
be integrated into a production
line for large-volume blow molded
containers.
This work led to the formation
of the spinoff company Ionkraft
in April 2021 by joint managing
directors Montgomery Jaritz, a
former IKV plasma technology
researcher, and Frederik Heuer,
who studied mechanical engineering
at RWTH University in
Aachen before taking up various
positions in industry.
Ionkraft technology had previously
won fi rst place in the 2020
innovation awards by RWTH University,
to which IKV belongs.
Support by the RWTH Innovation
Sprint program enabled
Ionkraft to build and evaluate a
prototype coating system in the
IKV plasma-coating laboratory
in Aachen-Melaten. This was recently
equipped with an automated
handling system based on
an ABB articulated arm robot to
simulate continuous production.
The award led, in turn, to funding
from the Federal Ministry for
Economic Affairs and Energy
(BMWi) under its EXIST research
transfer scheme in support of
startup companies transferring
research fi ndings into business
models.
In a presentation at the September
2020 IKV International
Colloquium Plastics Technology,
Jaritz talked about the potential
for Ionkraft plasma coating technology
to develop 100 percent recyclable
large high-barrier rigid
packaging containers. Jaritz said
Ionkraft can make its own contribution
to the fact that only 6 percent
of plastics packaging waste
worldwide is recycled.
But " the world is waking up to
the problem, and governments
and the industry are starting to
act, " Jaritz stated.
Jaritz said the market offers no
recyclable packaging for sensitive
chemical products. Effective
but expensive nylon or ethylene
vinyl alcohol copolymer (EVOH)
barriers in rigid packaging containers
need to exceed a permissible
maximum 6 percent content,
which is too high for recycling.
And interlayer adhesion promoters
also need consideration.
Although container interior
surface fl uorination is well established
and provides " medium
to good " barriers, Jaritz said the
process is expensive, diffi cult to
handle and faces an " imminent "
ban in view of fl uorine being on
the Gothenburg, Sweden-based
ChemSec International Chemical
Secretariat's SIN list of " substances
of very high concern. "
Jaritz says that in absence of
tighter recycling requirements,
there have been three reasons
why established solutions have
remained on the market. These
are namely concerns about
container
chemical resistance
to chemicals with pH above 7,
achievement of oxygen and sol07_SON_09_Cor_21_013_Songwon_K-Fair_22_IPlastics
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Ionkraft plasma treatment
equipment installed at IKV in
Aachen-Melaten.
Plastics News photo by David Vink
vent barriers as required by ADR
hazardous goods transport regulations
and the " huge variety of
containers with asymmetric and
complex geometry. " He maintains
existing silicon oxide barrier
coatings
are limited by
hydrolylow
sis
resistance
and
ated
associpoor
resistance
to
high pH value
chemicals.
Jaritz said Ionkraft plasma coating
solves those problems, providing
chemically stable solvent
and gas barriers. The process involves
a reactor concept for large
containers. Simulation of large
and complex container coating
ensures homogeneous, pore-free
layer deposition over the entire
surface. This is checked with OES
optical emission spectroscopy
developed at IKV. He said plasma
coating plastic containers is presently
restricted almost exclusively
to easily coated small-volume and
simple geometry beverage bottles.
Ionkraft plasma coating includes
assessment of intrinsic
plasma parameters. Developed
by IKV together with RUB Ruhr
University Bochum, this is based
on " ion fl uence, " a plasma transfer
process criterion defi ning
the number of ions impinging on
the surface to be treated during
pre-treatment.
Ionkraft's IonOne pre-production
prototype at K 2022 can coat
containers up to 20 liters in volume,
" reducing oxygen permeation
to almost zero, " Jaritz said.
Following Ionkraft coating
evaluation in 12 proof-of-concept
projects with potential
customers, Ionkraft aims to sell
plasma-coating
machines to
packaging producers. But Jaritz
told Plastics News this will require
investors, and automation
and manufacturing partners to
become involved to build the
equipment in a closed industrial
rather than the present open laboratory
way, " as Ionkraft cannot
fi nance this on its own. "
He stressed, however, " We have
secured €1 million nondilutive
funding from two grants. We now
seek seed funding for EXIST Phase
2, in order to prepare scaling up. "
One next step will be a pilot
production project at a customer's
plant, which should further
help to prove process stability.
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Plastics News - Show Daily - October 19, 2022

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