Silicon dioxide (SiO2), or silica, is found everywhere in nature. Chemical treatments make it useful in manufacturing a large range of everyday products. These include paper, metals, electronics, paint, pharmaceuticals, textiles, concrete and batteries.
"Frontiers of silica research" is jointly arranged by Chalmers' Materials Science Area of Advance and Gothenburg-based Eka Chemicals, one of the world's largest manufacturers of silica sols. This has attracted a large number of participants from industry and the academic world.
"This is the first time we are creating such an opportunity for knowledge exchange between researches and industry," says Professor Krister Holmberg of Chalmers. "We provide an insight into where research is today and where we see potential for development. This is a very exciting and expansive research area."
A large proportion of the world's paper manufacturing is done with products based on silica sols from Eka Chemicals.
"This is naturally extremely interesting for us and it is decisive for our competitiveness to stay on the leading edge, "says Lars Andersson, Director of Research, Business Development and Communication at Eka Chemicals. "We invest 200 MSEK a year in research and development and a good deal of this is in cooperation with external partners such as Chalmers.
Eka Chemicals operates plants for silica sol production in Brazil, China, Taiwan, Germany, the US and Sweden. The latest investment, a new plant in China, will be inaugurated in April. The firm's research centre is in Bohus, about 20 km north of Gothenburg. Besides supplying the pulp and paper industry, large volumes of products based on silica sol are sold, for example, to the pharmaceutical and electronics industry.