WILTON, Conn.—GE Advanced Materials has expanded capacity for NXT silanes at its Texas City, Texas, plant to meet growing demand for the material used in making low rolling-resistance tires and other high-performance products.
The capacity project coincides with the launch of two lower-volatile organic compound versions, according to Wayne Hewet, president and CEO of GE Advanced Materials-Silicones, the General Electric Corp. business unit that oversees silanes.
GE didn´t disclose capacity or investment information for competitive reasons, but said the enhanced production capability is the result of a proprietary process development. GE added capacity for silanes at Texas City last fall and said longer term it plans to add NXT capacity outside the U.S. The company also makes the material at plants in Sistersville, W.Va., and Termoli, Italy.
GE got into the silanes business in mid-2003 when it bought Crompton Corp.´s OSi Specialties´ organosilicones business. OSi launched the NXT line—which GE says offers single-pass compounding—in September 2002, heralding its faster and easier dispersion during rubber compounding.
These qualities can translate into significant savings for tire makers processing silica-based tread compounds, said Ian R. Moore, general manager for the silanes business.
GE declined to be more specific about growth demand, but OSi said when it launched the NXT line in 2002 demand for silanes was growing about 10 percent a year.
The low VOC versions—NXT LowV and NXT Ultra-LowV—reduce ethanol emissions up to 90 percent over polysulphide silanes, widening the manufacturing envelope for using silica tire compounds, the firm said.