Solvay (company)

Solvay is a multinational corporation with international groups of chemical companies. It employs approximately 30,000 people in 40 countries and is among the 10 largest chemical companies in the world. The origin is in place Couillet, about 50 km south of Brussels. The German subsidiary Solvay GmbH, headquartered in Hanover.

Soda patents and first work in 1863

The first factory was founded in 1863 by brothers Alfred and Ernest Solvay in Belgium Charleroi near Brussels. While Alfred was responsible more for the economic aspects, his brother Ernest was more of a chemist and philanthropist. He developed the Solvay process ( ammonia - soda process ), which was named after him and had reached 1865 patent maturity.

The young company was in the early years constantly on the verge of bankruptcy, because the production was much more expensive than we thought. In order to be able to operate profitably, further experiments were needed. The chemical process was perfected in 1872, but high debts had accumulated. Towards the 1790 developed by Nicolas Leblanc process for the recovery of sodium carbonate, Solvay could not prevail. The father was worried about his sons, but Ernest wrote to him: "To secure the future, today I must make sacrifices. " This company failed. The entrepreneur Solvay took but added in a new start-up capital and shareholders and could enforce its procedure.

As the method was refined to an inexpensive mass production, the brothers forgave licenses and built from 1880 other courses in England, France ( 1896 in Salin- de -Giraud ), the U.S., Germany ( 1880 Wyhlen, 1883 in Bernburg (Saale ) ) and Austria, and in 1906 in Rheinberg / Ossenberg. 1921 saw the acquisition of the soda factory of the United Swiss Saltworks in Rekingen.

In 1900 already accounted for 95 percent of global production to Solvay Soda, and today there are about 70 factories that work with the procedure. The soda - production method of the Solvay brothers is essentially unchanged to this day.

By Ernest Solvay in 1911 the famous Solvay Conferences were launched. With funding from Solvay also supported "national relief committee ", which had been founded at the end of the First World War by Belgian industrialists and bankers.

The original company supported - especially in the person of Ernest Solvay - numerous social and educational projects and led one of the first in Europe to a eight-hour day. Other sciences, such as sociology and physical chemistry were funded by foundations Institute at the University of Brussels, for which mainly Ernest began. In addition, three research institutes were funded in Brussels, as the patron of mankind would return a portion of his wealth from the income.

The Solvay Group today

The soda - production method of the Solvay brothers is essentially unchanged to this day. Over the decades, but the product range has expanded to other raw materials chemistry, with growth clearly goes back to Alfred Solvay:

  • Sodium hydrogen carbonate, hydrogen peroxide
  • Plastics

In March 2006, a 50/ 50 joint venture called SolviCore agreed with the Belgian Umicore. Purpose of the company is the development, production and marketing of so-called membrane electrode assembly (MEA), the heart of the fuel cell. Regardless, both companies put your research and development activities in the field of fuel cells still in their areas of specialization membrane ( Solvay ) or noble metal catalysts ( Umicore ) separated away. 2006, the European Commission imposed for anti-competitive agreements in the field of bleach products the company with a fine in the amount of 167.1 million euros. For 4.5 billion euros, the pharmaceuticals business was sold in 2009 to Abbott Laboratories. The consolidated annual sales of Solvay S. A. Brussels Group amounted to € 7.1 billion in 2010.

In September 2011, the French company Rhodia was acquired for 3.4 billion euros.


The largest single shareholder with approximately 30% of the Solvac SA, which is about 80% in the hands of members of the Solvay founding family (as of 31 December 2012).