December 22, 2003
Volume 81, Number 51
CENEAR 81 51 pp. 39-50

ISSN 0009-2347


POLYMER CHEMISTRY

STU BORMAN, C&EN WASHINGTON

Polymer science developments this year included advances in polymer synthesis, tailoring of polymer properties, and plastics processing.

Guillermo C. Bazan of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and coworkers devised a three-component catalyst system to prepare branched polymers with structures that cannot be obtained with a single catalyst or catalyst pair [J. Am. Chem. Soc., 124, 15280 (2002)]. The group's study was facilitated by a novel high-throughput screening technology developed by researchers at Symyx Technologies and Dow Chemical who used the technology to rapidly discover hafnium-based complexes that catalyze olefin polymerization [J. Am. Chem. Soc., 125, 4306 (2003)]. The Symyx-Dow team found that some of the complexes performed as well as or better than Dow's workhorse metallocene polyolefin catalyst system.

In a potentially blessed development, H. Yildirim Erbil of Kocaeli University, in Turkey, A. Levent Demirel of Koç University, Istanbul, and coworkers devised a simple, inexpensive method for converting polypropylene into a coating whose surface strongly repels water, much like the leaves of the sacred lotus plant [Science, 299, 1377 (2003)]. In the past, such efforts have generally involved expensive materials and complex, time-consuming processes. The coatings could be useful in microfluidic devices and to protect outdoor surfaces from icing or fouling.

A new high-pressure component-mixing technique developed by Anne M. Mayes and coworkers at MIT makes it possible to mold plastics at room temperature [Nature, 426, 424 (2003)]. It could lead to energy savings in industrial plastics processing and promote plastics recycling.



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