Spotlight on innovation

In December 2018, a film crew from the Emmy-nominated “Tomorrow’s World Today” (TWT) visited Eastman’s Corporate Headquarters in Kingsport, Tennessee, and its Technical Service Center in Akron, Ohio, to film segments for three TWT episodes that aired on the Science Channel in May 2019.


The episodes, hosted by Tamara Krinsky, an Emmy award-winning actress, writer, and broadcast host, highlight the company’s specialty plastics, performance and processing additives for tires, and coatings technology.

In the specialty plastics episode, Krinsky explains that it’s been hard for her to stop using single-use plastics. She decides to explore the future of plastics with a stop at Eastman’s Corporate Headquarters.

She meets first with Dr. Chris Killian, Eastman’s vice president of Additives and Functional Products, Chemical Intermediates and Corporate Technology. Killian explains the origin of Eastman Tritan™ copolyester in the early 2000s as a response to the marketplace’s desire for a clear, tough, chemically-resistant plastic that was also BPA-free.

“We recognized a need in the market to deliver a material that was BPA-free. We developed a chemistry based on 70 years of polyester technology competency, and that family of polyester materials is called Eastman Tritan,” Killian explains. Tritan has become one of the fasting growing polymers ever launched in the plastics industry.

In the episode, Krinsky learns how Tritan copolyester goes from liquid to pellets that are used to manufacturer countless products, including water bottles, kitchen blenders, medical equipment and baby bottles.

Marty Boykin, director of polymers technology, shows Krinsky how color is added to the pellets to match a customer’s specification. He also shows her an injection stretch blow molding machine, which allows Eastman to make products like its customers, and a polarized light box, which Eastman team members use to evaluate the stress of the Tritan material after it’s molded.

Krinsky also talks to Burt Capel, who formerly served as Eastman’s vice president and general manager of specialty plastics, about the future of Tritan and other plastics.

“I think where the markets are going is consumers and brand owners are going to demand a balance of properties. They’re going to want all the performance — whether that’s chemical resistance, whether that’s toughness. They’re going to want it to last. And I think we’re well suited, and the markets are demanding this kind of performance long-term,” Capel explains.

In the coatings episode, Krinsky takes a closer look at our advanced coatings solutions.

Dr. Deep Bhattacharya, director of AFP coatings, accompanied Krinsky first to the Corporate Innovation Lab and then to the company’s Weathering Facility to learn about weathering and durability testing for Eastman Tetrashield™ protective resin systems.

“When you park your car in a parking lot, you have a shopping cart ding. You can also have scratches from tree branches. In the first case, you need a coating that’s hard that can prevent a scratch. But it can be too hard and it’s going to shatter. In the other case, you need it to be tough, so it can absorb the shock from a shopping cart ding,” Bhattacharya explains. “The engineers and scientists at Eastman were able to develop a new product that provides you with this perfect balance of toughness and hardness. You can now have a paint that’s resistant to key scratches, to tree branch scratches, and at the same time it will resist impact from a shopping cart.”

Bhattacharya also shows Krinsky how automotive paint is applied. Eastman’s paint application robot is programmed to simulate the exact application environments of vehicle production facilities. This enables Eastman scientists to understand application parameters, baking temperatures, curing optimization and other important information. They use the data to create resin and additive solutions that meet paint performance and energy demands at the automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) level.

Dr. Chris Killian, making a second appearance on TWT, explains to Krinksy the connection between coatings and autonomous driving.

“In an autonomous driving world, one car has to be able to see the other car,” he says. “The technologies that are used to identify an oncoming car or a car in proximity is a reflective technology, and not all automotive coatings are seen by the autonomous driving systems today. If you think about the future of autonomous driving, without innovation in the coatings space, you’re going to be limited to the color palette or you’re going to be severely limited in the environment in which autonomous driving may apply.”

For the tires episode, Krinsky travels to Akron, Ohio, the tire capital of America, to learn about the vulcanization of rubber, one of the key processes in the manufacture of tires. At Eastman’s Technology Center of Excellence, Krinsky also learns more about our commitment to collaborate with tire manufacturers around the world on innovative materials that make tires more durable, more efficient and grip the road better.

Dr. Fred Ignatz-Hoover, technology fellow, shows Krinsky the different ingredients that go into a tire — natural rubber, carbon black, stearic acid, zinc oxide, Eastman Crystex™ insoluble sulfur, accelerators, and antidegradants. He explains that those components are mixed together to form the rubber compound that ties the tire together. That compound is then formed into a sheet, and the sheets are cured and prepared for vulcanization.

“Sulfur vulcanization is a chemical reaction that ties all the polymer molecules together through sulfur linkages,” Ignatz-Hoover explains. “That converts the plastic deformable material into the tough elastic material that’s required for the tires.”

Dr. Dominica Wong, senior application research scientist, explains to Krinsky how the rubber is tested to simulate tires in use. This helps us understand how the rubber will respond to real-world conditions.

“After the rubber is made and cured, that’s really only half of the story,” Wong explains. “This is where we have all the fun and we try to test the rubber to the limit. We try to stretch it. We push it. We pull it. We really try to understand where the rubber might fail.”

Dr. Brock Thomas talks to Krinsky about the future of tires. “When we think about the future of tires, we see four megatrends — sustainability, vehicle electrification, autonomous vehicles and ride sharing,” Thomas says.