Düsseldorf, Germany — Michelle Jou sees good things when she looks at the global polycarbonate market.
“We're very optimistic about the long-term growth of polycarbonate,” Jou, PC president for Covestro AG, said Oct. 21 at K 2016 in Düsseldorf. “We're expecting 4 percent annual growth. There are huge opportunities.”
Covestro, based in Leverkusen, Germany, ranks as one of the world's largest PC makers. The firm on Oct. 12 formally opened two world-scale PC production lines in Shanghai, doubling the site's capacity to almost 900 million pounds.
Compounding capacity there also has almost doubled. The expansion is part of a multiyear project in which Covestro will invest more than 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in Shanghai.
Jou said PC growth is coming from many sectors, including automotive housings, mobile phones, LED lighting and medical devices. Covestro's PC even is being used in transparent heels in women's footwear and in visors for helmets worn by firefighters.
PC made by Covestro notched a high-profile North American application last month when the Minnesota Vikings NFL team opened U.S. Bank Stadium. A club-level lighting system there uses Covestro's Makrolon Lumen XT-brand PC sheet.
Jou describes new and developing applications as “a natural hatching of our portfolio.” Parts for self-driving cars, for example, “have to be smarter and lighter,” she said. In the medical market, dialyzers represent a big opportunity for Covestro in China and India. PC also is working to replace magnesium alloys in laptop computer applications.
Jou, a native of Taiwan, was named to her current position on Jan. 1, becoming the first woman to hold that role. She has more than two decades of experience in the chemical industry in Asia, serving in a variety of positions in sales, marketing and supply chain management.
Before joining Covestro predecessor Bayer MaterialScience in 2003, Jou worked for a leading French petrochemicals company in Hong Kong and Shanghai for about 10 years. She was named head of commercial operations in Asia for BMS' polycarbonates business unit in 2012.
“We're trying to positon polycarbonate as a combination of strength, transparency, design, flame-retardance and heat-resistance, depending on the application,” Jou said.
“Some people believe that polycarbonate has been commoditized, but that's not entirely true,” she added. “We're still coming up with new products.”