Which elements are of particular importance to LANXESS?
LANXESS has developed in the direction of synthesis chemistry; therefore, base chemicals are used less and less. We have just completed an inventory control and determined that of the current 118 elements, around 25 play an important role for LANXESS. For example, phosphorous is very important in the production of base materials for synthesis of plant protection products and flame retardants. Without iron, there would be no Bayferrox®, while chromium plays a large role in leather chemicals and even in the production of anorganic green pigmentation.
You have dealt with the periodic table in-depth for a great number of years. Have you got a favorite element?
I actually find all of them exciting! I have been creating my own collection of elements since 1974 – my passion reaches that far back. From a scientific point of view, I think lanthanides are very interesting. They can also be found under the name “rare earth metals” and play an ever greater role in current technical developments. Elements such as dysprosium and holmium have been attributed huge potential in the future in high-performance magnets – for example, in wind power systems. Other areas of application for rare earth metals are in smartphones and plasma screens.
You know the periodic table like the back of your hand – is this the same for all chemists?
No, probably not. A lot of passion can be attributed to learning the entire system by heart. Chemists generally know the properties of the elements with which they frequently work. In spite of my passion, the periodic table is only a component of chemistry. In order to really get enthusiastic about chemistry, you need to feel and see it – and that happens best through experimenting. This is, above all, an important approach for chemistry lessons in schools, in my opinion.
What does the anniversary year of the periodic table mean for you?
I am currently working on an amended new version and summary of my previous books to generate a large handbook. This entails a lot of research and collation of new research results. The date of publication is set for late fall. My free time is therefore currently well occupied!