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Brave New World?

Let's be honest, most of us still have fond memories of the year 2000. Not the year 2000 that we celebrated at the end of 1999, but rather the semi-mythical Year 2000. Back in the heady days of the 1960s, it signified a bright future, a bold age in which technology would have long since solved all our problems, a brave new world in which cars could fly and people would live on Mars.

As we know, things didn't quite turn out that way. Not that there aren't a heap of things now that nobody had thought of then: video cameras the size of a postage stamp, drugs to fight diseases that hadn't even been discovered 50 years ago, clothing that is not only waterproof but also breathable, and smartphones with a processing power that would have made NASA green with envy a generation ago. But automobiles that can fly? No way! 

Gazing into the future is always a difficult business — not least for car manufacturers. For them, it would be great to have some idea about tomorrow's forms of transportation, if only because they could then start talking about what kind of technology and investment this might require. Yet one thing is sure: with air quality set to worsen in the world's mega-cities, the internal-combustion engine is going to become increasingly unwelcome. In fact, not only does it produce harmful nitrogen oxide emissions; it also guzzles the world's progressively scarce reserves of crude oil. Experts therefore agree that it is only a matter of time before the car in its current form is gradually phased out. But if only they knew what might replace it. One thing is certain, however: innovative materials like those produced by LANXESS are set to play a crucial role here.

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