New Polymers from Multi-Vinyl Monomer Homopolymerisation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

Branched polymers offer novel material behaviour and unique product benefits; several systems have been commercialised leading to significant market value. Many of the chemistries that are used for branched polymer production are difficult to perform. Often the type of material that can be made and the cost of manufacture mean that materials are not viable for a range of potential applications. Within this research, the programme of science that is proposed will establish a completely new synthetic approach to branched polymers, opening avenues of investigation that could significantly impact the scale-up and supply of new polymers for advanced applications. The programme has an early partnership with a UK company with a track record of commercialisation of UK University fundamental science, aiming to provide a route to rapid economic and societal impact that is embedded into the research at the outset.

Branched polymers are used in various commodity applications such a paper-manufacturing, coatings and sealants, laundry powders and water purification; however, uses in more advanced technologies is restricted by the chemistries that may be accessed in their synthesis. Here, we propose a new approach that opens the scope of branched polymer chemistry beyond conventional chemical techniques, thereby offering new materials to academics and industry.

The chemistry will generate a world-leading position for UK academia and has the potential to generate considerable value for the UK economy through patented technologies, generating a competitive advantage for UK industry

Planned Impact

The introduction of new routes to novel polymers may impact widely upon academia and industry, thereby having demonstrable scientific, economic and societal benefit. Academically, new approaches are well known to spur considerable activity. The combination of concepts used within the chemistry outlined in this research is dislocative, encouraging new thought and, as a result, the design of new functional materials. As such, the strategy for generating new branched polymers will stimulate academic research widely.

The synthesis techniques may be readily adapted by global chemical industries as no new starting materials are necessary for the polymerisation, conventional equipment may be used and the cost-base of these new materials should be similar to the range of costs within commodity polymers. Complex conditions which are difficult to replicate on large scales have been deliberately avoided, as have new catalytic systems and the use of materials that must be removed through lengthy purification or regenerated after batch synthesis. Indeed, the proposal seeks to establish both the potential for scale-up (including the production of 500g-1kg samples of material) and the modelling of reaction thermodynamics to predict the multi-ton production of materials using these approaches.

It is expected that the research may therefore impact on a wide range of communities, ultimately across the scope of branched polymer research currently underway using conventional chemistries. This will eventually also offer financial, economic and societal benefits as the chemistry and resulting materials progress through production and into products and new technologies.

To establish and accelerate the development of impact, the proposal has industrial partners contributing >20% of the value of the research programme and aiding the early demonstration of industrially-relevant material benefits from the novel polymers achievable through this chemistry. Full impact will require strategic protection of new intellectual property and a clear plan for IP identification and protection through the University of Liverpool is in place; two patents have already been filed, resulting from the initial preliminary data generated by an EPSRC Vacation Bursary to an undergraduate student in 2016.

The researchers involved in this study will witness the translation of novel chemical ideas through to industrial evaluation and scale-up and the impact of this on their future careers must also be taken into consideration. The novelty within the programme will aid the UK in its leadership of advanced materials globally and offers significant economic and societal benefits in coming years.
 
Description The research represents a new route to polymer synthesis that is directly industrially relevant and scale-able. This has been validated by 5 multinational companies
Exploitation Route The research could revolutionise industrial production of polymers
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Construction,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Other

 
Description The new research has led to a range of internal testing of materials as candidates for industrial scale-up and exploitation
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Construction,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Evaluation of new materials for industrial benefits
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Organisation Synthomer plc 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 08/2019
 
Description Study of new materials for industrial benefits
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Organisation Croda Europe Ltd 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 03/2019
 
Description Evaluation of novel materials for potential commercial benefits 
Organisation Lubrizol Corporation
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Materials designed, synthesised and scaled for internal evaluation
Collaborator Contribution Evaluation of materials at UK and US research and development sites
Impact Materials studied and ongoing evaluation
Start Year 2018
 
Description Industrial collaboration on polymers from multi vinyl monomers (degradable consumer products) 
Organisation Croda Europe Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Materials synthesised for evaluation
Collaborator Contribution Project review and in-house materials evaluation
Impact Materials evaluated for a range of applications
Start Year 2018
 
Description Industrial collabotration 
Organisation Synthomer plc
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Materials discussions and synthesis of samples for internal iterative evaluation
Collaborator Contribution In-house evaluation of materials in multinational laboratories
Impact Large scale samples generated for in house evaluation
Start Year 2018
 
Title BRANCHED POLYMERS 
Description A method of preparing a branched polymer comprises the free radical polymerisation of a multivinyl monomer in the presence of a chain transfer agent, using a source of radicals, wherein the extent of propagation is controlled relative to the extent of chain transfer to prevent gelation of the polymer. The average length of each vinyl polymer chain within the product is short. 
IP Reference WO2018197885 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2018
Licensed No
Impact Multiple industrial engagements (included funded evaluation programmes)
 
Title POLYMERS 
Description A method of preparing a polymer comprises the use of free radical vinyl polymerisation to form carbon-carbon backbone segments of the polymer, wherein the longest chains in the polymer comprise vinyl polymer chains interspersed with other chemical groups and/or chains. The product has the characteristics of astep- growth polymer comprising a mixture of polyfunctional step-growth monomer residues formed by vinyl polymerization. 
IP Reference WO2018197884 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2018
Licensed No
Impact Multiple commercial engagements (including funded evaluation of materials)
 
Description Industry engagement discussion 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Industry discussion regarding ongoing research activities
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Industry engagement in research activities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Debate about ongoing research activities and later engagement
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description Industry engagement on research activities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact New research at UoL was presented to Industry to initiate impact engagement
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Meetings to discuss implications of new EPSRC research 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Engagement with industry to inform possible end users of new research deliverables
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018,2019