100 Years of WACKER - Wacker Chemie AG


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100 Years of WACKER

Ceremony to Mark 100 Years of the WACKER Group

At a ceremony in Munich on October 13, 2014, some 500 eminent guests from the worlds of industry, science and politics gathered alongside the Executive Board and Supervisory Board of Wacker Chemie AG and Bavaria's Minster President Horst Seehofer to celebrate the Group's 100th birthday. On October 13, 1914, businessman Alexander Wacker registered a company called “Dr. Alexander Wacker Gesellschaft für elektrochemische Industrie KG.”

Peter-Alexander Wacker, Horst Seehofer, Dr. Rudolf Staudigl
Attending the ceremony in Munich: Supervisory Board chairman Peter-Alexander Wacker, Bavaria's Minister President Horst Seehofer and President & CEO Rudolf Staudigl (left to right).

"The flagship of chemistry in Bavaria" was how Minister President Horst Seehofer described Wacker Chemie AG. Addressing the Group management, he said: "You embody the motto that has made Bavaria successful: Don't manage the past - instead, win the future." Seehofer also stressed the various achievements of economic policy in Bavaria, including sound budgetary management. On the subject of transport policy, he intimated that work to link Burghausen and the Bavarian Chemical Triangle with the highway and railway network would proceed, and any existing gaps would be plugged.

Peter-Alexander Wacker, the Supervisory Board chairman of Wacker Chemie AG and great grandson of the company founder, spoke about his great grandfather. Showing great determination, stamina and courage, he said, Alexander Wacker made company a pioneering force for electrochemistry in Germany. The Group which he created had repeatedly found the strength to change, was characterized by long-term thinking and deeds, and set out to deliver customer-focused innovations from the very start.

Most of all, continued Wacker, his great grandfather had embraced the future with enthusiasm. "Creating tomorrow's solutions" was the Group's self-avowed maxim. WACKER had already engaged with the megatrends, by entering the worlds of biotechnology and solar silicon, as well as building up a global production and sales network, especially in Asia and China. In the USA, Charleston was about to be completed – this was a further polysilicon production site and also the keystone for an integrated production site in the world's second-largest chemicals market.

Peter-Alexander Wacker concluded his speech with the words "The biggest growth drivers of the future are globalization and people’s desire for higher standards of living." He noted that per capita demand for chemical products came to roughly 1500 euros a year in Germany, around 150 in China and about 60 in India. "These figures underscore the huge potential," he added. For that reason, he was unreservedly optimistic about the Group's future.

Rudolf Staudigl, President & CEO of Wacker Chemie AG spoke about the great history of chemistry in Germany, and the contributions made to it by WACKER. He listed the following:

  • The 1st WACKER Process for the production of acetaldehyde and acetic acid from acetylene.
  • Acetylene chemistry, which spawned polyvinyl acetate, polyvinyl alcohol and PVC in the 1920s and 1930s,
  • The start of silicone research in 1947,
  • The 2nd WACKER Process, developed in the late 1950s, for producing acetaldehyde from ethylene and which enabled the Group to switch to petrochemical feedstocks for its raw materials base,
  • And the start of polysilicon production, also in the late 1950s.

"Even though the basis of our chemistry goes back decades in some cases, it has kept reinventing itself," Staudigl reminded the audience. "From the chemistry of carbides, acetic acid, adhesives and PVC, to semiconductor products and silicone chemistry, to solar silicon, our product portfolio has undergone constant change." In silicon, WACKER was providing the base material for highly integrated electronics and photovoltaics. Biotechnology, meanwhile, was opening up a whole new world for the Group and offered enormous growth potential. The future, predicted Dr. Staudigl, lay in the intersections between chemistry, physics, biology and information technology. "WACKER will always have a hand in the major trends of our time." Of that, the CEO had no doubt

The 2014 WACKER Silicone Award Goes to Akira Sekiguchi

Professor Akira Sekiguchi of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Tsukuba, Japan (center) has received the 2014 WACKER Silicone Award. He is shown here being congratulated by WACKER President and CEO Dr. Rudolf Staudigl (right) and WACKER SILICONES President Dr. Christian Hartel.

This year’s WACKER Silicone Award goes to Akira Sekiguchi, a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Tsukuba in Japan. The award, which is worth €10,000, was presented in Berlin. In 2003, the recipient was the first to synthesize molecules with stable silicon-silicon triple bonds and to characterize them by means of X-ray crystallography. These and numerous other studies have made Sekiguchi a pioneer in the field organosilicon research, stressed Dr. Christian Hartel, president of WACKER SILICONES, in his introductory speech. The award was presented at the Axica Conference Center in Berlin as part of the 17th International Symposium on Silicon Chemistry and the 7th European Silicon Days.

At the 2014 Silicone Award ceremony in Berlin, ten of the previous 15 Silicone Award winners met with WACKER Executive Board members as well as with the heads of R&D and the WACKER SILICONES division. The WACKER Silicone Award was presented for the first time in 1987.

The WACKER Silicone Award is presented by the Munich-based chemical group every other year. Along with the Kipping Award, the WACKER Silicone Award ranks among the world’s most prestigious honors in the field of organosilicon chemistry. “Over the past 20 years, Professor Sekiguchi has presented an incredible wealth of new findings,” said Hartel before an audience of roughly 250. “His scientific studies have had a pivotal influence on silicon research and have given us a deeper understanding of structures containing low-valence silicon.”

In more than 250 publications, Sekiguchi has described a large number of synthesis reactions and compounds. These include, among others, mixed five-membered aromatic rings that consist of three silicon and two carbon atoms each and that are of interest for applications in future lighting materials. The 62-year-old scientist was also the first to synthesize highly branched, tree-like polymers based on silicon. Surface catalysis represents one field of application for these molecules. In addition, Sekiguchi described stable, cyclic radicals based on silicon that are of importance for developing future high-energy storage systems. The potential of these research results is currently under investigation in collaboration with Japanese automaker Toyota.

Sekiguchi’s synthesis of a stable disilyne attracted considerable attention in 2003. Disilynes are molecules containing a silicon-silicon triple bond. The carbon chemistry analogs of these compounds are the alkynes, of which acetylene is the simplest representative. Because disilynes are highly reactive, their existence had previously been in doubt. Sekiguchi overcame this hurdle through the use of bulky ligands, which have a steric shielding effect that protects the triple bond. He was able to verify the triple bond through X-ray crystallography. This achievement is considered a milestone in organosilicon research.

WACKER President and CEO Dr. Rudolf Staudigl (left) talking to Professor Akira Sekiguchi, the WACKER Silicone Award winner in the Group's centennial year of 2014.

Akira Sekiguchi was born on the Japanese island of Honshu in 1952 and studied chemistry at Gunma University. He earned his doctorate at the University of Tsukuba under Professor Wataru Ando and received his doctor of science degree (Sc.D.) in 1981. After working for a year as a post doc under Professor Robert West in Madison, Wisconsin (USA), he returned to Japan, where he worked as an associate professor at the Institute for Organosilicon Research at Tohoku University. He has been a full professor at the University of Tsukuba since 1996.

Sekiguchi has been the recipient of multiple awards. In 2004, he received the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Award. In 2006, he was bestowed the Frederic Stanley Kipping Award of the American Chemical Society. In 2012, he won the Chemical Society of Japan Award. On May 16 of this year, he received the Japanese Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon for outstanding academic and artistic achievement.