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McMaster Institute for Polymer Production Technology.

McMaster Institute for Polymer Production Technology

The McMaster Institute for Polymer Production Technology (MIPPT) is a research organization whose goals include: - carrying out applied research in areas of strategic interest to polymer production companies; - developing an understanding of fundamental polymerization processes; - providing a means of transferring to industry the advanced production technology developed in the institute; - using the institute facilities to train scientists and engineers in the modern theory and practice of polymer science and engineering.

MIPPT is unique in placing a major emphasis on polymer reaction engineering and computer control, while maintaining research in the traditional areas of polymer chemistry and processing. The distinctiveness of the McMaster institute derives from its focus on improving existing industrial production technology and developing new production processes for direct implementation by its client companies.

This capability is based on a long-standing, advanced research establishment in the Faculty of Engineering including advanced pilot plant facilities (a 35-gal, 1,500 psig semi-batch reactor will be installed in a new pilot plant facility in the spring of this year), analytical laboratories, and advanced real-time computer control capabilities.

Specific Projects

Three of MIPPT's R&D areas generating great industrial interest are reactive processing, reaction injection moulding (RIM), and on-line sensor development for reactor control.

Reactive Processing

To maintain a competitive advantage for polymer-based products in world markets, industry must make use of the most recent innovations in polymer research. Polymer processors now doing physical transformations only will need to use chemical as well as physical transformations to produce higher value-added products and be competitive in the international marketplace.

In reactive processing, an inexpensive commodity polymer can be transformed into a high value-added specialty polymer. The process grafts reactive species onto the commodity polymer backbone using a twin-screw extruder as a polymer reactor. An example would be grafting of hydrophilic species onto a polyolefin backbone to improve the surface properties of the polyolefin.

MIPPT has underway a major programme to develop fundamental kinetic information on reactions that occur during chemical modification within an extruder. This information is needed to allow control of chain scission, branching, cross-linking and grafting. All of these affect the final product performance properties. MIPPT conducts its research using a Welding Engineers 30mm extruder with an output of about 75 pounds per hour. The reactive species are introduced into the extruder through multiple feed ports along the screw length.

Reaction Injection Moulding (RIM)

In RIM, polymerization and moulding occur simultaneously in-situ. Compared to traditional moulding techniques this allows the production of much more complex shapes with lower mold costs. A wide variety of polymer physical properties can be produced by modifying chemical composition. RIM processes are widely used in the automotive industry.

At McMaster, we are studying processing aspects of RIM, specifically, mixing, mould filling and recipe development. An integrated approach is taken in which experimental work on pilot-scale machines and computer mathematical modelling are carried out in parallel. The research programme is extending into structural RIM (SRIM) where reinforcing material is preplaced into the mould and pre-polymer reactants are injected over the fibre reinforcement. This approach opens up a greater variety of properties and hence product applications.

On-Line Sensor Development

Continuous monitoring of chemical reactions in polymer-reactor vessels is a large step to better control the processes. This improves the quality of products, reduces cost and improves production plant safety.

Previous work at McMaster has focused on using individual sensors to measure density (vibrating |U' tube densitometer), turbidity (by light scattering), particle size distribution (using dynamic light scattering). Current work extends to the use of multivariate calibration methods to handle large data measurement sets such as are obtained from near infra-red (NIR) fibre optic probes, ultrasonic wave velocity and attenuation detectors, and ultraviolet spectrometers.

Because of their very efficient handling of large correlated data sets, the same statistical methods are used to relate process variables to end use properties. This leads to effective statistical process control and property inference.

PHOTO : MIPPT director Archie Hamielec, FCIC, adjusts one of the institute's pilot-plant systems.
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Title Annotation:Plastics in Canada: the state of the art
Author:Hamielec, A. E.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Previous Article:Polymer research at McGill University.
Next Article:Polymer science at U of T's Chemistry Department.

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