High-Speed, Stereoselective Polymerization for Renewable, Bio-Derived Plastics
Fabrication of polymers and plastics from naturally renewable feedstocks offers the potential for a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to petroleum-based polymers. Biomass-derived polymers based on butyrolactones are a potential substitute for petroleum-derived polyacrylic plastics, but methods suitable for large-scale production have been unknown previously.Description
Researchers at Colorado State University have developed multiple methods to synthesize polymers from a class of renewable compounds encompassing several butyrolactones. The methods are catalytic and utilize novel coordination polymerization systems that exhibit exceptional activity and proceed at high speed. Furthermore, use of coordination polymerization allows for the synthesis of stereoregular polymers from racemic monomer solutions at room temperature (unprecedented in the case of at least one butyrolactone).
In contrast with alternative systems based on radical polymerization, this coordination polymerization method yields stereoregular, isotactic polymer products with high reaction rates and high conversion percentages. The resulting plastics exhibit enhanced materials properties over the widely-used poly(methyl methacrylate) (pMMA). In particular, they display high stereoregularity and excellent resistance to heat, solvents, and scratching, as well as extremely high glass-transition temperatures (Tg), up to 290 °C.
The sustainability and advantageous properties exhibited by these materials make them excellent candidates to displace petroleum-based polymers based on methacrylates. The enhanced activity of the catalytic polymerization reaction and the efficient use of starting materials may make this a cost effective method to produce renewable, bio-derived plastics at large scale. The superior features of the resulting polymers may offer cost and performance advantages over petroleum-based polyacrylics in a number of applications, such as plastic optical fibers and any application requiring high heat and solvent resistance.Benefits
- Rapid, selective catalytic system to produce vinyl plastics from renewable biomass
- Stereoregular, isotactic polymers with high T (290°C) and outstanding resistance to heat, solvents, and scratching
- Renewable alternative with cost and performance advantages over petroleum-based polyacrylics such as pMMA
- Optical fibers
- Heat- and solvent-resistant plastics
- Replacement for PMMA in manufacturing
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