Automatic Synthesis of Multimodal Polymers

Fluence Analytics collaborated with its academic research partner Tulane PolyRMC on a peer review publication in Macromolecular Reaction Engineering. An automatic molecular weight controller is used in semi-batch reactions to produce multimodal polymers that contain distinct subpopulations with different molecular weight distributions (MWD). While blending polymers with different MWD is frequently used to make products from multimodal polymers, a method is introduced here allowing the multimodal polymers to be made in successive, automatically controlled stages in the same reactor.

The method is demonstrated using free radical polymerization of acrylamide to produce widely separated multimodal MWD. Automatic Continuous Online Monitoring of Polymerization reactions with a Control Interface (ACOMP/CI) was used. Weight average molecular weight (Mw) in the ACOMP/CI was continuously measured with multi-angle light scattering and ultra-violet absorption. The controller used two principles: both polymerization rate and instantaneous molecular weight are proportional to monomer concentration.

By controlling monomer flow rate into the reactor, the controller produced a targeted amount of polymer with a desired first Mw and then automatically introduced chain transfer agent (CTA) into the reactor to produce a second population of polymers with much lower Mw. Subsequently, reactions were performed to produce trimodal populations. This approach is kindred to multi-stage synthesis of polymers where distinctly different processes are carried out in succeeding stages to produce polymers with highly specific properties.

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