Professor Enrico Dalcanale is a professor in the department of Chemistry, Life Sciences and Environmental Sustainability at the
University of Parma. For 15 years, he and his team have been researching pioneering innovations together with ELANTAS.
Dr. Davide Malinverno, Research & Development Manager Engineering Materials at ELANTAS, supports ideas until they are ready for
the market. He oversees the development and technical assistance for the engineering materials product group that operates in
composite industry and adhesives applications.
Professor Dalcanale, what will the next groundbreaking discovery be?
PROF. ENRICO DALCANALE: In 15 to 20 years from now I can look back and tell you (laughs). On the one hand, academic research is spearheaded by social developments. On the other, students define research priorities based on their interests. Currently, projects that enable sustainable product solutions are on the rise. Often, the focus is on reducing the carbon footprint of polymers.
Can chemical innovations really make the world more sustainable?
PROF. ENRICO DALCANALE: I’m convinced of that! But teamwork is required. For university research, we need cooperation with companies like ELANTAS. This gives us a complete picture and enables us to research chemical innovations that are in demand on the market.
DR. DAVIDE MALINVERNO: ELANTAS already has composite materials with a biobased content of 30 to 50 percent in its portfolio. These are used, for example, in the marine industry to produce hulls, decks, and superstructures. Our goal is to significantly increase the proportion of renewable raw materials. In addition to collaboration with partners along the supply chain, research projects with universities are a key driver of innovation.
What is needed for successful research projects?
DR. DAVIDE MALINVERNO: Personal relationships are very important. I’ve known Professor Dalcanale since I was a student. This is the basis for trusting and respectful collaboration. Plus, the University of Parma is only a few minutes’ drive from our site in Collecchio. That makes communication extremely easy.
PROF. ENRICO DALCANALE: The open exchange between ELANTAS and my team promotes our partnership. The crossfertilization between innovative science and real-world problems fosters common growth. That’s very motivating. My highly talented students also benefit from this, as they can already conduct research close to the market during their studies and gain insights into a chemical company.
DR. DAVIDE MALINVERNO: What fascinates me during the visits is the energy and creativity with which we develop ideas. This works because experts with different backgrounds are brought together to tackle concrete projects and exchange ideas on current research issues and technical details.
And what is the newest, most promising idea for respectful use of resources?
PROF. ENRICO DALCANALE: We need to further increase the lifetime of products. That’s why we’re researching self-diagnostic materials that indicate the state of damage. As a result, only the parts that are defective need to be replaced. At the same time, unexpected production downtimes can be avoided because components are replaced before they lose their functionality.
We also pursue self-healing and reshapable composites to allow their reuse as structural materials.
DR. DAVIDE MALINVERNO: Another research focus is on the development of reversible sealing materials. With these systems, it will be possible to disassemble parts without losing quality, allowing the product to be reused.
Increasing the amount of bio-based material is only a part of the solution. To improve sustainability, we also need to extend the life of our products, to preserve renewable resources for a longer time.