Free Radical Polymerisation and Polymer Modification

An international polymer manufacturer needed extra capacity for one their existing products. This involved a 4 four stage process first polymerisation followed by solvent exchange then polymer modification by partial hydrolysis and finally solvent removal.

Initial work was based on our customer’s processing steps:

  • Lab scale manufacture of the 1st stage polymer manufacture was successful but scale up problems were identified due to:
    • mixing of the monomer and neat initiator prior to feeding into the reactor required a chilled mixing vessel
    • extremely high viscosity during the 2nd stage solvent exchange meant we could not process this with our current equipment.

Due to these problems and the costs and delays that installing new equipment would entail our customer supplied their polymer for the 3rd and 4th steps:

  • the modification of this polymer was scaled up from the lab to multi-tonne scale. Our final batch size was ~50% larger than our customers biggest.
  • a new test method was developed to follow the process.
  • the solvent removal was optimised for our equipment which allowed a reduction in total waste generation.

While the second project was undertaken in parallel we:

  • identified a new process to manufacture the 1st stage polymer that avoided the initiator/monomer mixture and the solvent exchange
  • worked closely with the customer to demonstrate that lab samples made to this new process gave encouraging performance results.
  • set up plans to validate this by pilot plant trials to provide enough material for real world application testing.