ICIS Innovation Awards 2012: Hard and soft merge in single polymer

22 October 2012 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Dow Chemical has made a breakthrough in polymer technology in a move it claims reshapes long-held beliefs in plastics. The product, INFUSE olefin block copolymers (OBCs), has revolutionised the industry, says the US-based producer.

hairbrush Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical

Kim Ann Mink, business president, elastomers, electrical and telecommunications, at Dow Chemical, comments: "INFUSE OBCs have redefined long-held beliefs in the world of plastics and established new boundaries of polymer science with its truly innovative, unique block architecture. Dow is committed to offering some of the most technologically advanced tailored solutions to the industries we serve to inspire our customers, leading to new business opportunities and growth potential."

The copolymers have chains with alternating blocks of highly rigid (hard) and highly elastomeric (soft) segments and, as a result, they offer groundbreaking performance through combining flexibility and heat resistance, something which has not been possible before.

Dana Gier, global research and development director at Dow Elastomers, says: "Traditionally, there has always been a trade-off between the properties of low density elastomers which provide resiliency, elastic recovery and flexibility, and the properties of high density polyethylene (HDPE) which has rapid set-up, excellent processability and heat resistance."

The main properties of INFUSE OBCs are improved high-temperature performance, faster processing set-up and better abrasion resistance than olefin elastomers. They also have high melting temperatures and low glass transition temperatures, maintaining excellent elasticity both at high and room temperatures.

Because of its new-to-the world combinations, INFUSE has opened the door to a whole variety of uses across a multitude of markets and applications, something that Dow Chemical engineering, product development and marketing staff are clearly very excited about.

Kim Ann Mink

"INFUSE OBCs have redefined long-held beliefs in the world of plastics and established new boundaries of polymer science"

Kim Ann Mink
Business president, elastomers, electrical and telecommunications, Dow Chemical

The INFUSE product line, launched in 2007, became commercially available worldwide in 2008 and there are currently more than 10 grades making their way into applications such as food contact containers, sporting and recreational goods, consumer grips, toys and infant products, flooring, adhesives and hygiene.

Karen Fennessy-Ketola, global new business development director for Dow Elastomers, says: "INFUSE can compete in applications that require thinner components, low service temperature in hot-melt adhesives, stain resistance, oil-free solutions in consumer durables, and stretch and softness combined for hygiene, to name a few."

Dow made the breakthrough using a proprietary catalytic system - catalytic block technology - that gives more precise control of the polymer microstructure. A patented chain shuttling agent transfers growing chains between two distinct catalysts with different monomer selectivities in a single polymerisation reactor.

"When this catalyst came together, we knew we could make something that had never been seen before," says Fennessy-Ketola. The new OBCs can be produced on current commercial-scale plants and polyolefin processes.

Dow says it has had a very positive response from the market to INFUSE. Gier says that a lot of hard work is being done by Dow in educating and working with customers to understand the new polymer's capabilities, as this is the first time that a single polymer has been able to offer such a combination of properties. She says: "We are working on more functionality and customers are finding extra benefits."

Fennessy-Ketola says: "We have established new boundaries through our game-changing innovation. INFUSE is still in its infancy and there is a lot of innovation going on in the market place."


By: Elaine Burridge
+44 20 8652 3214



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