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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 9

I Introduction

II The Australian Chemical Industry

III Pharmaceuticals

IV Chemists In Other Industries

V The Dawn Of Modern Chemical Industry - High Pressure Synthesis

VI The Growth Of Synthetic Chemicals - Concentration, Rationalisation And International Links

VII Australian Industrial Chemical Research Laboratories
i Australian instrument inventions
ii Plant protection - overseas and in Australia
iii Successes in the laboratory but . . .
iv Drugs for sheep and cattle revisited Tetramisole - international success and local manufacture
v 'Promicide'* 'Grenade'* to control ticks
vi Technical service R&D
vii Industry/CSIRO/university collaboration
viii Australian entrepreneurs in modern chemistry

VIII The Plastics Industry

IX The Paint Industry

X Acknowledgements



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Australian entrepreneurs in modern chemistry

Any history of Australian chemical industry without record of the many medium and smaller enterprises' contribution would be grossly incomplete. Yet it is impossible to describe the large number of individual units and their incremental innovative steps. Perhaps their most significant achievement was technical entrepreneurship.

The chemical industry is capital and research intensive; both factors operate against the small entrepreneur. Over the years this handicap has increased. Australia entered the chemical industry relatively late; by the end of last century plant scale was not yet immense and geography assisted the early entrepreneurs rather than hindered them, as it does now. With the virtual explosion of modern chemistry, petrochemicals, plastics, synthetic fibres, pharmaceuticals, the time of the high added value high technology industries had arrived. Innovation rested on systematic exploration by large research teams, long development programs, complex integration and immense scale of plants.

To compete in this environment and to find niches of local opportunities, or to simply compete by lean management and ingenuity, required skill, courage and creativity in ideas, management and marketing. Some of these post-war entrepreneurs came from large corporations which had provided their training and insight into the technology, but had not been able to satisfy their need for independence, elbow room and ambition. Others came from research services -or even the chemical literature.

Here the story of just one of these entrepreneurs of the post war period must serve as representative of a number of similar case histories.

Up to the end of the Second World War a small public analytical firm, Hardman Laboratory Pty Ltd,[115] provided a consulting service to industry. After the war its director Alexander Boden, AO recognised the need for production in Australia of DDT which had been developed by the Swiss chemical company Geigy, and for which the patent rights had expired. After some initial work in his Roseville backyard, he set up a small factory in Marrickville, an industrial suburb of Sydney, in 1947. From this factory DDT was first released to the market in 1947.

DDT production generates a number of by-products, notably dichlorobenzenes and hydrochloric acid. Uses and markets had to be found for these by-products which led to the production of zinc chloride solution for the dry cell battery industry and the galvanising industry and soldering fluxes. From these beginnings Hardman Chemicals Pty. Ltd. became the dominant producer and marketer of zinc chloride, zinc ammonium chloride and aluminium hydroxychloride.

In the mid sixties, DDT was being displaced by more specific and less persistent insecticides, and Hardman Chemicals looked for a replacement product. A zinc residue produced as a by-product by E. R. & S. Ltd., which had been causing severe disposal problems at Port Kembla was converted economically to zinc sulphate. Subsequently Boden's company became the sole producer of zinc sulphate in Australia as well as an exporter of the product to countries such as the USA, Canada, and Scandinavia. Hardman Chemicals received an Export Award in 1970 for its success in the export of zinc sulphate and other products.

In 1967 plans were made to move the production plant to a new eight hectare site at Seven Hills about 6 km west of Parramatta where, when it was fully established in 1970, the production of aluminium hydroxide gels and later magnesium hydroxide gels was begun to supply the increasing demand by the pharmaceutical industry. Alongside this, aqueous epoxy resin formulations were produced as a first entry into the formulated specialty market.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Colonial Sugar Refining Company (C.S.R.); E.R. & S. Ltd; Hardman Chemicals Pty Ltd; Hardman Laboratory Pty Ltd

People in Bright Sparcs - Boden, Alexander

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 692 - 694, Online Edition 2000
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