Paul Schlack-Honorary Prize awarded to ITA project leader

Awardee Dr Markus Beckers L&M Marketing

On the 13th of September 2017 in the course of the opening of the 56th chemical fibre conference Dornbirn 2017, Dr Markus Beckers of Institut für Textiltechnik (ITA) at RWTH Aachen University was awarded with the Paul Schlack-Honorary Prize 2017 for the project “Development and analysis of a new manufacturing process for polymer optical fibres (POF)”.

  Awardee Dr Markus Beckers during his presentation L&M Marketing Awardee Dr Markus Beckers during his presentation

With this prize, named after the inventor Paul Schlack of Polyamide 6/Perlon, the European Man-Made Fibres Association annually awards a project leader of joint projects from academia and industry, which research constitute outstanding achievements in the field of chemical fibres.

  Awardees of Paul Schlack Man-made Fiber Prize and Paul Schlack-Honorary Prize L&M Marketing

Also involved in the project were the companies Deutsche Telekom AG, Bonn, Perlon-Monofil GmbH, Dormagen, and Sojitz Europe plc., Düsseldorf.

Optical polymers are polymer materials, which are used in optical or data transmission technologies. Polymer optical fibres exist in the form of step-index profile fibres (SI-POF) and gradient-index profile fibres (GI-POF). GI-POF offer the advantage of higher bandwidth, which leads to higher possible data rates. They are suitable for lengths up to 100 metres. However, the production of GI-POF is more complex.

Both the lack of suitable production processes for GI-POF and the enormous market potential of polymer optical fibres caused the project partners to search for a new production method for GI-POF. For this purpose, fibres have been spun in pilot scale with a small extruder of the company Fourné Polymertechnik GmbH, Alfter-Impekoven, Germany, at ITA and in industrial scale on a spinning plant at Perlon-Monofil GmbH, Dormagen, Germany, under the direction of Jürgen Büdenbender, Head of Development of Perlon-Monofil GmbH. The fibres were evaluated in a factorial design of experiment. The factorial design of experiment evaluated the most important process parameters with influence on the optical attenuation of the fibre. In pilot scale, a statistically significant effect was proven for the water-bath temperature”, Büdenbender said. In addition, the refractive-index profile was determined using a special adaptation of the refractive-near field method (RNF) at Hochschule für Telekommunikation Leipzig (HfTL), the university of Deutsche Telekom AG. Under the direction of Prof. Dr Christian-Alexander Bunge was the influence of the cooling rate on the density of amorphous polymers theoretically investigated using a numerical multiple-particle molecule model. “The combination of experimental characterisation and the theoretical modelling is of particular importance for the systematic fibre development. Through the sponsorship of Deutsche Telekom AG, we at HfTL have the best conditions to combine both aspects and pursue industrial relevant research”, said Prof. Dr Bunge enthusiastically.

To benchmark the identified fibre properties in the global technological environment, the competition and cost situation for POF production was examined together with Peter Kröplin, Head of Optische Polymerfasern Sojitz Europe plc. A technological benchmarking was done to determine competitive processes including target costing: “As a result, it became clear that the fibres could be produced considerably cheaper with the new process than with the competition, even in pilot scale. The up scaling to industrial scale illustrates the economic potential of the new production process as well” said Mr. Kröplin.

Through the determined properties of the produced GI-POF, evidence was gathered that using the new method polymer optical fibres with gradient-index profile solely based on a one-material-system without dopants can be continuously and economically spun in pilot and industrial scale. Attenuation values down to 1-2 dB/m can be achieved.

“I want to identify open and practical relevant questions and turn them into industrially viable solutions. This was successfully done by us in this joint project. There are not many names that are as strongly tied to German industrial history and have gained as much positive publicity as Paul Schlack and his Perlon. For this reason, receiving the Paul Schlack Honorary Prize is a special honour for me and the whole team”, Dr Markus Beckers said.