Catalysts are chemical compounds that, in small amounts, promote chemical reactions while not being affected by the reactions themselves. They are added to polymer reactors to enhance the formation of polymer chains.
Metallocene catalysts are complex chemical compounds that combine mineral-based chemistry with carbon-based chemistry, and replace traditional catalysts in a polymer reactor.
Metallocene catalysts are based on a metal atom - titanium, zirconium and hafnium have been used; carbon-based compounds called ligands are attached to them.
These catalysts currently are expensive for two reasons:
First, attaching ligands to the central metal atom is a difficult chemical task that requires many painstaking steps.
Secondly, since metallocene catalysts are not used in large quantities, they are being made in small batches by hand.
Analysts believe that the cost of metallocene catalysts will drop as their production moves from laboratories to mass production facilities. That is expected to happen as Dow Chemical Co., Exxon Chemical Co. and other resin manufacturers demand more metallocene catalysts to use in their polymer reactors.
While metallocene catalysts were discovered in the 1950s, their complexities kept them as laboratory curiosities until the science of making them, activating them in a reactor and using them in large-volume reactors advanced.