Studies Towards a Sustainable Synthesis of Polyisobutylene Succinic Anhydride

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Chemistry


Automotive additives are deployed into fuels, engine and driveline fluids and lubricants to provide improved cleanliness and vehicle performance. These additives make vehicles more environmentally friendly as they deliver improved lubricity and smoother, more efficient running, thus reducing wear and degradation and extending the life of the vehicle. Fuel economy and quality is improved by a carefully designed multifunctional additive package, maximising mileage, and reducing harmful emissions (including detrimental particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide). Their presence in vehicles is inherently sustainable, however the synthesis of certain well-established additives requires unsustainable high temperatures and extensive reaction times. Thus, the goal of this project is to find a greener and more sustainable synthetic route to existing additives, or suitable analogues with an improved environmental footprint. The vast scale of annual production translates to significant projected savings if the reaction temperature could be lowered, in terms of energy, CO2 emissions and financial costs. To ensure successful implementation, savings that could be realised by the new process must outweigh the footprint of implementation, to ensure a lasting sustainable solution.

Proposed solution and methodology

Initial work on this project will focus on reproducing industrial reactivity in the university laboratory environment. In addition, preliminary synthesis and analysis will aim to model the reaction to allow chemo- and regioselectivity to be monitored, as well as measure the efficacy of future catalysts. Two subsequent catalyst screens are proposed, each activating the reaction by a different mechanism. The automotive industry limits the composition of additive products, and as such catalyst recovery strategies, and/or supported catalysts may be vital for commercial potential. The viability of successful catalyst systems will be assessed by financial, green and lifecycle metrics with the help of the project's industrial sponsor. Mechanistic, kinetic and catalyst stability studies will be carried out on promising candidates in the later stages of the project, followed by scaled-up synthesis of the final additives for real-system performance testing. Contingency plans have also been outlined, if the primary catalyst screens do not yield a suitable system. The project will be carried out with regular input and consultation with the industrial sponsorship team.

Planned Impact

This CDT will deliver impact aligned to the following agendas:

A2P will provide over 60 PhD graduates with the skill sets required to deliver innovative sustainable products and processes into the UK chemicals manufacturing industry. A2P will inspire and develop leaders who will:
- understand the needs of industrial end-users;
- embed sustainability across a range of sectors; and
- catalyse the transition to a more productive and resilient UK economy.

A2P will promote a step change towards a circular economy that embraces resilience and efficiency in terms of atoms and energy. The benefits of adopting more sustainable design principles and smarter production are clear. For example, the global production of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) has been estimated at 65,000-100,000 tonnes per annum. The scale of associated waste is > 10 million tonnes per annum with a disposal cost of more than £15 billion. Consequently, even a modest efficiency increase by applying new, more sustainable chemical processes would deliver substantial economic savings and environmental wins. A2P will seek and deliver systematic gains across all sectors of the chemicals manufacturing industry. Our goals of providing cross-scale training in chemical sciences with economic and life- cycle awareness will drive uptake of sustainable best practice in UK industry, leading to improved economic competitiveness.

This CDT will deliver significant new knowledge in the development of more sustainable processes and products. It will integrate the philosophy of sustainability with catalysis, synthetic methodology, process engineering, and scale-up. Critical concepts such as energy/resource efficiency, life cycle analysis, recycling, and sustainability metrics will become seamlessly joined to what is considered a 'normal' approach to new molecular products. This knowledge and experience will be shared through publications, conferences and other engagement activities. A2P partners will provide efficient routes to market ensuring the efficient translation and transferal of new technologies is realised, ensuring impact is achieved.

The chemistry-using industries manufacture a rich portfolio of products that are critical in maintaining a high quality of life in the UK. A2P will provide highly trained people and new knowledge to develop smarter, better products, whilst increasing the efficiency and sustainability of chemicals manufacture.
To amplify the impacts of our CDT, effective public engagement and technology transfer will become crucially important. As a general comment, 'sustainability' styled research is often regarded in a positive light by society, however, the science that underpins its effective implementation is often poorly appreciated. The University of Nottingham has developed an effective communication portfolio (with dedicated outreach staff) to tackle this issue. In addition to more traditional routes of scientific communication and dissemination, A2P will develop a portfolio of engagement and outreach activities including blogs, webpages, public outreach events, and contribution of material to our award-winning YouTube channel,

A2P will build on our successful Sustainable Chemicals and Processes Industry Forum (SCIF), which will provide entry to networks with a wide range of chemical science end-users (spanning multinationals through to speciality SMEs), policy makers and regulators. We will share new scientific developments and best practice with leaders in these areas, to help realise the full impact of our CDT. Annual showcase events will provide a forum where knowledge may be disseminated to partners, we will broaden these events to include participants from thematically linked CDTs from across the UK, we will build on our track record of delivering hi-impact inter-CDT events with complementary centres hosted by the Universities of Bath and Bristol.


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