Innovation

High-Speed, Stereoselective Polymerization for Renewable, Bio-derived Plastics

Colorado State University Ventures, Inc.
posted on 11/09/2011

A rapid, selective catalytic system to produce vinyl plastics from renewable biomass. The resulting polymers offer cost and performance advantages over petroleum-based polyacrylics such as pMMA and are ideally suited for a wide variety of applications, including optical fibers and heat/solvent resistant plastics.


Innovation Details
 

Detailed Description

Fabrication of polymers and plastics from naturally renewable feedstocks offers the potential for a cost effective and sustainable alternative to petroleum-based polymers. Biomass-derived vinyl polymers based on butyrolactone have been recognized as a potential substitute for plastics derived from petroleum-based polyacrylics, but catalytic systems suitable for large scale production have not yet been developed.

Researchers at Colorado State University have addressed this problem by developing a method to synthesize polymers from a class of renewable compounds, including α-methylene-γ-butyrolactone (MBL) and γ-methyl-α-methylene-γ-butyrolactone (γMMBL). The method uses a novel coordination polymerization system that incorporates a rare-earth metal (REM) catalyst. The polymerization system exhibits exceptional activity and proceeds at high speed. Furthermore, use of coordination polymerization allows for the synthesis of stereoregular polymers from racemic monomer solutions at room temperature (unprecedented in the case of βMMBL).

In contrast with alternative systems based on radical polymerization, this coordination polymerization method yields stereoregular, isotactic polymer products with higher reaction rates and high conversion percentages. The resulting plastics (including PMBL, PγMMBL, and PβMMBL) exhibit enhanced materials properties over the widely used poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA). In particular, they display high stereoregularity and excellent resistance to heat, solvents, and scratching, as well as extremely high glass-transition temperatures (Tg).

The sustainability and advantageous properties exhibited by these materials make them excellent candidates to displace petroleum-based polymers based on methacrylates. The enhanced activity of the catalytic polymerization reaction and the efficient use of starting materials may make this a cost effective method to produce renewable, bio-derived plastics at large scale. The superior features of the resulting polymers may offer cost and performance advantages over petroleum-based polyacrylics in a number of applications, such as plastic optical fibers and any application requiring high heat and solvent resistance.

Features and Benefits
• Rapid, selective catalytic system to produce vinyl plastics from renewable biomass
• Stereoregular, isotactic polymers with high Tg and outstanding resistance to heat, solvents, and scratching
• Renewable alternative with cost and performance advantages over petroleum-based polyacrylics such as pMMA
• Wide variety of applications, including optical fibers and heat/solvent resistant plastics

File Number: 12-008 

Other Information: Inventor Information:
Eugene Chen
Yangjian Hu

Contact:
Jeremy Nelson, Ph.D.
Director, Licensing & Business Development


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February 11, 2009

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