For those who sincerely think HOW to innovate
I want to share this IFR tale that happened a few days ago at my office. I have to admit, there is a lot of science and a lot of chemistry in the story, so hoping it doesn't thwart you, here goes:
We manufacture pharmaceutical drugs. A few days ago, a chemical maufacturer came to our office and was showing us a range of chemical products that help us to get rid of trace elements of precious-metal impurities (like palladium, rhodium, platinum etc) from our reaction mixtures to meet pharmaceutical quality requirements. Getting rid of these trace quantities of metals is very tough and usually very expensive as the scavenging chemicals we use are highly specialized for our applications. This particular vendor was manufacturing these products in India and was hence promising them at a cheaper cost.
However, as I sat thorugh his presentation, I thought of the Idea Final result and the 'lawnmower and hybrid grass' example and thought of the reason for the presence of these trace elements of precious metals in our intermediates. The cause of their presence is the use of these metals as catalysts. Now, catalysis is a surface phenomenon, so the smaller the particle size of the catalyst, the better its action because of larger surface area. But the small particle size also makes these catalysts very difficult to separate later (usually by conventional filtration) as has been the case.
Both me and the vendor were aware of a technology that allows the same catalyst particles to be stuck onto a hollow bead which has larger particle size than the individual catlyst and yet the same surface area of each catalyst particle is available. So because this catalyst bead is bigger, it is easy to filter and provides the same activity as the tiny-catalyst particles. And surprisingly, this is very similiar to the technology that the vendor currently uses for scavenging the catalyst particles later!
So I had a little conversation with the vendor who has just started out his business in India and told him (like the lawnmower guys were thinking): Sooner or later this metal scavenging business is going to end. People will start using the hollow bead catalysts more and more (the current constraint is only cost, which this vendor located in India can aid). And hence, soon his metal scavenging business is well, going to be out of business. So he should start making the hollow bead catalysts (they are called encapsulated catalysts) asap and then capitalize on his foresight!
And I think he seemed to agree!
Awesome one. Very happy to see that you are already applying the techniques, Jasmine :)
Thanks for sharing it with the group. I also saw a contradiction, where one might say like these. I want a smaller catalyst which enables the increased action Vs I don't want smaller catalyst because it is difficult to separate :)
nice one! ideal catalyst is of course no catalyst.. :) Or like Prakash put it, you want the catalyst, but dont want the catalyst or to give a specific contradiction. Size of the catalyst should be big when you want catalysis, but small or zero when you dont want the catalysis. There in lies the solution.