Alfa Aesar

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Alfa Aesar
Industry Basic materials
Headquarters Ward Hill, Massachusetts
Products Specialty chemicals
Owner(s) Johnson Matthey
Website www.alfa.com

Coordinates: 42°45′54″N 71°06′58″W / 42.765°N 71.116°W / 42.765; -71.116

Alfa Aesar, headquartered in Ward Hill, Massachusetts, is a supplier of reagents and materials for use in research and development, and analysis. They have facilities in many countries and manufacture many of the chemicals they sell.

History[edit]

The current Alfa Aesar setup - part of the Johnson Matthey Fine Chemicals & Catalysts Division[1] - comes from a series of company mergers:

  • Alfa Inorganics was originally founded in 1962 by Alfred Bader, in a 50:50 venture between Aldrich Chemicals and Metal Hydrides Inc.[2] The purpose was to provide a source of inorganic research chemicals to sit alongside the organic chemicals of Bader's other company: Aldrich Chemicals. It was created to market inorganics, organometallics, and others such as organoboron and organoarsenic reagents. Following the amalgamation of Aldrich and the Sigma Chemical Co, the joint venture was terminated with Alfa reverting to Metal Hydrides ownership (later Ventron, later again Thiokol). In the USA the business was branded as Alfa, and sold only inorganics. In Europe, the business was branded as Alfa-Ventron (to distinguish it from the UK company Alfa Chemicals) and also later sold a limited range of organic chemicals sourced from Lancaster Synthesis. The European sales office was in Karlsruhe, Germany. The USA and European operations used different (though similar) catalogues, with completely different product number sequences and appear to have been run with a high degree of independence from each other. Thiokol eventually tired of the non-mainstream business and sold it to Aesar, who closed the USA site and relocated the business to the Aesar location.
  • Johnson Matthey Research Chemicals. Johnson-Matthey had two distinct research chemical catalogues, one of high purity inorganic chemicals and metals, the other a (short-lived) range of inorganic reagents, solvents and acids. This was operated from their facility at Royston, Hertfordshire U.K. Royston had manufacturing and machining equipment for high purity metal foils, powders, ribbons and salts.
  • Aesar. This was Johnson Matthey's part-owned USA distribution agent for their range of high purity inorganics. Aesar had no manufacturing or bottling facilities, being simply a distribution centre. Following the takeover of Alfa, the combined business was rebranded Alfa-Aesar, rationalised on the Aesar location at Ward Hill, and Johnson-Matthey assumed full ownership. This grew in importance to lead the Johnson Matthey research chemical interests.
  • Lancaster Synthesis, initially based in Lancaster and then Morecambe, Lancashire UK. This business was founded by Eric Wildsmith and Wilf Maughan and specialised in the manufacture and supply of organic research chemicals. The business was sold to MTM PLC for £20,000,000 in 1989, following which Maughan retired and Wildsmith was eventually ousted as Managing Director by the Executive Chairman of MTM  : Richard Lines.[3] MTM subsequently went bankrupt, Lines and the MTM Financial Director, Tom Baxter were jailed for fraud,[4] and Lancaster Synthesis (by then rebranded MTM Research Chemicals) was sold to BTP PLC in 1993 - who reverted the name to Lancaster Synthesis. BTP in turn was later sold to Clariant, who had no idea what to do with the company - and eventually agreed a sale to Johnson Matthey for £14,000,000.[5] Unfortunately a few weeks before the sale was due to complete, an unexplained major fire destroyed the scale-up plant and the majority of the bulk stock.[6] This has echoes of another destructive fire on the eve of the MTM takeover, which totally destroyed a manufacturing laboratory. The Lancaster Synthesis sites have now all closed, with all operations moved to the newer Avocado facilities at Heysham. During the period of MTM ownership, a series of other companies were acquired and brought under notional control: Loba Feinchemie (Fischamend, Austria), Farchan Laboratories (Gainesville, Florida) Monomer Polymer & Dajac Labs (USA). These were all sold back to their previous owners or local management following the MTM collapse as they required too high a management input from the UK, and had never been properly integrated.
  • Fairfield Chemicals, Blythewood, South Carolina. This was a small-scale manufacturing plant near Columbia S.C. which specialised in hazardous chemistry, often involving fluorine and phosgene. It was acquired by MTM from its founder, Hiram S. Allen, as a USA manufacturing plant for Lancaster Synthesis, and was the one MTM Research Chemical acquisition that was properly integrated and managed. Like many other similar small chemical sites in that part of South Carolina, it was subject to intense local environmental concerns and pressures, driving Clariant to eventually close the site. However the intellectual property, stock and customers were transferred to Lancaster Synthesis prior to closure.
  • Avocado Research Chemicals, based in Heysham, Lancashire, UK, specializing in organic chemicals. This was Eric Wildsmiths second foray into the research chemical business. Originally based in Lancaster, it quickly grew, moving to a purpose built location at Heysham following a serious fire at its second location on Caton Road, Lancaster. It was subsequently sold to Johnson-Matthey for £25,000,000[7] and integrated into Alfa-Aesar, becoming their main organic production plant.

Both Lancaster Synthesis and Avocado had close trading links to Alfa at various times prior to the takeover: the organic products sold in Germany through the Alfa-Ventron catalogue were sourced from Lancaster, while Avocado products were distributed both in the USA and Germany by the combined Alfa-Aesar. During the late 1970s / early 1980s, Lancaster Synthesis was the primary UK distribution agent for the USA Alfa range, taking this business over after it was relinquished by Aldrich UK. However this relationship was undermined when Alfa-Ventron independently opened its own short-lived sales unit in the Thiokol-Morton offices in Coventry.

Current Manufacturing[edit]

Their main manufacturing organic chemical facility is located at Heysham, Lancashire, UK. 54°02′18″N 2°54′26″W / 54.0383°N 2.9071°W / 54.0383; -2.9071. This has been supplemented by a bulk manufacturing site at Yantai, China[8]

Product lines[edit]

Alfa Aesar supplies a large variety of chemicals for various disciplines:

Alfa Aesar is a major supplier in the research and fine chemicals market offering over 30,000 products - many of which are rare compounds, which are unique to a major catalogue supplier. Alfa Aesar provides materials for drug discovery, materials science and all the essential building blocks for organic synthesis.

Notes and references[edit]

External links[edit]