Plasma technology from research for industrial use ̶ IonKraft start-up receives Innovation Award for introducing a sustainable technology into industrial application

The start-up company IonKraft, which has its roots in the Plasma Technology working group at IKV, has won first place in the RWTH Innovation Award 2021. Using plasma technology, the team wants to make plastic packaging for barrier applications in the chemical industry recyclable, and thus replace the present multi-material solutions. Plasma coatings enable the production of plastic packaging that is particularly light in weight, as dense as glass, absolutely chemically resistant and nevertheless fully recyclable.

The IonKraft team (from l. to r.): Stefan Wilski, Daniel Rau, Montgomery Jaritz and Benedikt Heuer, are delighted with their first place in the RWTH Innovation Award. | Photo: IonKraft

The coating of containers for fertilisers and crop protection products is one of the many possible applications for the plasma technology. | Photo: AdobeStock

IonKraft was founded in April 2021. Since then, the team has been developing, designing and building a reactor that coats plastic blow-moulded packaging and provides it with a chemically resistant barrier function. The applied coatings offer a strong migration barrier that is essential for many applications. The advantage of the coatings applied by plasma technology is that they can be applied wafer-thin to mono-materials. The coatings have the positive effect that – in contrast to multi-material solutions – they do not impair the recyclability of the packaging.

Plasma technology for a variety of industry sectors and end-products

Basically, the technology can be adapted to the individual demands of a wide variety of end-products, such as film, blow moulded articles or strictly regulated fruit packaging. In the agricultural industry, for example, the packs often have to have a solvent barrier that can be reliably produced using the plasma technology. With the first reactor design, the IonKraft team will be able to coat pack sizes of up to 20 litres, which meets the needs of the agricultural industry for the packaging of fertilisers or crop protection products – just one of many potential applications.

The research work at IKV steered IonKraft along its chosen course

The Plasma Technology working group at IKV has been carrying out research for many years into the coating of blow-moulded products, which laid the foundations for the present barrier technology. Since the beginning of the research work in the 1980s, this technology has repeatedly advanced by quantum leaps, and it was this that created the breeding ground for the founding of IonKraft. IonKraft has continued with the further development of the coating properties and has created a suitable machine design for the coating of specific types of packaging. The founders of the start-up now want to prepare, with their enterprise, the path into industrial application for the well-researched technology by enabling a high level of specialisation for different branches of industry. The future cooperation between IKV research and IonKraft will continue to be very close, which is why the Institute is particularly delighted about the presentation of the RWTH Innovation Award to the entire IonKraft team. It demonstrates clearly that the technology makes a major contribution not only to the innovative strength and reputation of the Aachen region, but also provides an important benefit to society as a whole.

Contact partners for further information

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Rainer Dahlmann

Dr.-Ing. Montgomery Jaritz, M.Sc.