Please tell us about yourself

In this interview, we speak to Kapil Deshpande, an applications scientist at Croda, about what is driving innovations in chemicals for advanced materials applications. Kapil did his Bachelor of Science (BS) in Chemical Engineering from Columbia University and PhD (Chemical Engineering) from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey-New Brunswick

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FJ: Please tell us about your role at Croda. What are your key focus areas and responsibilities?

KD: Croda is a specialty chemicals company that aims to bring high-performance ingredients and technologies to industries everywhere. To better support our customers, Croda has divided the company into four broad application-based business units: Personal Care, Life Sciences, Performance Technologies, and Industrial Chemicals. Within the Industrial Chemicals group, Advanced Materials is a big focus for scientific research and business development.

My main role is to develop new additives and new uses for our existing additives that can go into Advanced Materials applications. Advanced Materials is a very broad description that covers a range of high-tech applications such as ceramics, electronics, and catalysts, among many others. Each of these areas has its own unique requirements and market needs and a part of my responsibilities is to develop a deeper understanding of that. This enables me to recommend and develop products that will help our customers achieve their end objectives.

FJ: What excites and challenges you about your work?

KD: I truly enjoy researching literature about all the cutting-edge technologies that are being developed in the market, whether it is for renewable energy, for next-generation electronics, or simply new building materials. I spend every day learning about new ideas and new innovations for all these high-tech industries. From there I get to figure out how our own specialty additives can help drive innovation forward in these markets.

This does not come without its own set of challenges. I have to constantly be on top of what is going on in the market and therefore have a quick turnaround on products and recommendations for our customers so that they can stay ahead of their competition. It is a very fast-paced environment but I enjoy it very much.

FJ: What would you say are the key trends, challenges, and opportunities for the advanced ceramic/glass supply chain at present?

KD: The current generation of electronics is hitting its miniaturization limitations through the use of traditional ceramic materials. Electronics companies are increasingly turning toward advanced nanotechnology in electroceramics to get them past these limitations. This requires incorporation of new materials and new bottom-up approaches to production of these components.

Since a lot of this research is still in a relatively nascent stage, there is a lot of work left to be done to find the right materials and right processes to produce cost-effective solutions for these smaller electronic components. This presents challenges and opportunities as there are not yet any industry standards. Some of the issues that need to be solved are the cost of nanoparticle production, the incorporation of the nanoparticles into final forms, and the need for lower temperature sintering due to the size of component not being suitable for high temperatures.

FJ: In which markets are you currently seeing the biggest growth?

KD: The biggest growth area that I see is still in ceramic matrix composites. The demand for energy efficiency keeps increasing. Making engine components that are stronger and more thermally stable than metals but also lighter helps meet that demand. As the costs come down and production becomes more viable more companies will turn to these composites.

FJ: What challenges do you currently face along the supply chain? What are the main issues that affect you in this field (technology, regulations, and customer requirements)?

KD: The biggest challenge we face is keeping up with the changing landscape. Supporting the leading edge of materials means that everything is new, not only for us but also for our customers. There are many different drivers for demand of this new technology, whether it is the desire for better energy storage, or regulations requiring the removal of heavy metals like lead, or limitations in current technology for electronics miniaturization. To achieve this, our customers are working with new particle types, new solvent systems, and new processes but our additives still have to help them use their materials to deliver a brand new technological solution. We have to work hand-in-hand with them in their research and development and get them the desired effects.