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Research and development

When our ancestors painted on cave walls, they used carbon from fires to share stories. Sharing that fire lit the way for humanity to migrate and discover new frontiers. Today, we are constantly searching for a deeper understanding of our products and their applications so that we can build for the future through innovative and state-of-the-art processes.

Our development and use of the best available technology enables us to improve our product, progress new opportunities for carbon black applications and closely assess our sustainability efforts – including developing more sustainable forms of carbon black. We are committed to investing more into new research channels, and our teams are always working to design products that address the problems our customers may face in the future rather than waiting for them to come to us.

Leading through innovation

It has been over 75 years since our historic installation of one of the world’s first industrial electron microscopes – but it is an invention that keeps innovating. Decades later, our laboratories and product development scientists continue to exploit this tool to gain insight into current and future carbon blacks. Our customers say that our carbon black identification technology (CB ID) is still the best in the industry, and we gladly share our process with them.

Our engineers continuously investigate and develop new approaches to carbon black production and improved efficiency, while minimizing its impact on the environment. To ensure we remain at the cutting edge of our industry, we depend on leading scientists, dedicated to taking us forward.

Innovating with circularity in mind

Doug Barr

As we continue to explore new product possibilities, circularity is not just something we aspire to but a key consideration in our research and development process. We are actively working on some key technologies to enable this circularity.

We encourage innovation from any area of our organization – not just research and development. We know that to build on our Share the Strength ethos we must look for innovative ideas from every department, and we are making sure we spread this message widely to create an open culture of innovation. Read more about how we are promoting a culture of innovation across Birla Carbon.

To facilitate innovation, we provide our scientists with state-of-the-art research facilities. We bring together our Research and Development and Manufacturing teams from around the world to Share the Strength and develop innovative ideas to bring real change to our products and processes. Our two principal Research and Development Centers are in Taloja (Maharashtra, India) and Marietta (Georgia, USA). They are supported by two regional satellite laboratories in South Korea and Brazil.

Our Research and Development Centers are dedicated to five areas of expertise:

  • Manufacturing technology
  • Analytical services and quality
  • Product development
  • Process innovation
  • Material innovation

Taloja (Maharashtra, India) R&D center

Marietta (Georgia, USA) R&D center

Our Research and Development Centers employ around 80 leading scientists and technological experts in materials science, analytical chemistry, nanocomposites, physics and process engineering. They have access to computational fluid dynamics for engineering design and development, as well as laboratories fully equipped with high level personnel and equipment. This includes a range of sophisticated electron microscopes, which aid innovation, discovery and practical development to meet the ongoing challenges of the twenty-first century.

Meeting customer needs

The Product Technology group works with our customers and global Technical Service teams to ensure customers’ needs are understood and addressed. Part of their work is to develop new grades of carbon black to improve the performance and sustainability of our customers’ products. For instance, we propose new carbon black products that are less energy demanding during the incorporation phase in rubber, plastic, ink or paint formulations. We have also developed new grades of carbon black that are helping our coatings customers create safer products with water-based coatings rather than traditional, solvent-based products. This new carbon black will also achieve unseen jetness levels, superior performance and improved formulation costs.

Enabling sustainable mobility

Rolling resistance is a key focus for our tire customers, who are concerned with sustainable mobility. Our objective is to develop new carbon black grades and sustainable materials to further lower the rolling resistance for the next generation of tires, and in the past four years we have commercialized two new grades created with this goal in mind. In partnership with GranBio, we have also released a Nanocellulose Dispersion Composite (NDC™). This material increases the renewable content of tires and rubber goods, allowing our customers to achieve their sustainability goals and Birla Carbon to further drive our commitment to environmental stewardship. Tires made with our new low-rolling-resistance carbon blacks or NDC™ will consume less energy in vehicle propulsion, resulting in greater fuel economy and thus lower CO2 emissions.

4.8% profit reinvested in research and development in FY2020.

Developing materials that champion sustainability

Our collaboration with GranBio (formerly American Process Inc.) is working to enhance the sustainability of tires and rubber goods. In February 2020, we announced the introduction of a patent-pending Nanocellulose Dispersion Composite (NDC™) for qualification by tire and rubber companies. This NDC™ masterbatch, the result of a three-year joint development program with GranBio, provides optimal dispersion of nanocellulose in rubber formulations to improve tire rolling resistance and vehicle fuel economy. This innovative material not only enhances the in-service performance of tires, it also improves environmental performance, as nanocellulose is derived from renewable biomass resources, in line with our circularity aspirations.

New areas of development

Over the years, our research into carbon black and improving it for our existing customers have remained priorities. However, we are also dedicated to expanding into research and development in novel areas of products. Areas adjacent to where we currently work, such as tire materials, coatings, inks and plastics, all hold potential for increasing value for our business and our customers.

We have a team of highly qualified scientists researching new, highly conductive carbon blacks for use in lithium batteries to improve energy efficiency, power density and charging speed. These batteries could then be used in the next generation of electric vehicles, in grid storage systems to improve the efficiency of wind farms, or for home energy storage. We are also investing to expand our battery material portfolio to include natural and synthetic graphite.

Did you know?

There are over one trillion aggregates in a single gram of carbon black.

If laid out end to end along their longest dimensions, the aggregates in one gram of carbon black would more than encircle the Earth at its equator!

There is over 65,000 m2 of carbon black surface area in a typical passenger tire tread.

In terms of size ratio, the difference between a primary particle of carbon black and a soccer ball is about the same as between a soccer ball and the moon!

How we are supporting the SDGs

SDG 9

Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Our aim is to support and facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure development with carbon black, supporting the development of new technologies and innovations. This includes increasing efficient resource use, and we are currently researching the potential for carbon black use in energy storage.

SDG 11

Sustainable cities and communities

Carbon black is crucial in the development of safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems, particularly in terms of its role in tire safety, durability and improved rolling resistance.

SDG 17

Partnerships for the goals

We help achieve the goals by working closely with our stakeholders, particularly our customers.

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