HOUSTON - Montell Polyolefins has developed a new way of making an ethylene propylene diene monomer-based thermoplastic elastomer with exceptionally good dispersion of rubber in a poly-propylene matrix. Another benefit to processors is that the polymer granules do not stick to each other, making handling easier. Montell publicly announced the technology June 26 at the Flexpo '96 conference in Houston. Enrico Albizzati, director of catalyst and polymer research, told attendees that it can lead to new EPDM compounds, perfectly isotactic polypropylene and new polyethylenes. The Hoofddorp, Netherlands, firm is applying for patents to cover composition of matter because the new materials are radically different from others on the market.
Albizzati said in an interview that Montell is a year or two away from commercializing the process, which is a hybrid of two types of catalysis. Montell starts with a Ziegler Natta process to build a homopolymer or copolymer granule. Then it deactivates the Ziegler Natta catalyst and builds a support on the granule for the metallocene catalyst. It uses the metallocene catalyst to create another polymer on top of the first one. The second polymer can have a different molecular weight or be in a separate phase.
Albizzati said the process ``adds value'' to its Catalloy polymerization, which Montell commercialized in 1992.
``It's a new frontier,'' he said.
The firm produced the new EPDM a year ago at Montell Technology's pilot plant in Ferrara, Italy. He said Montell needs to study such polymers and evaluate them before putting them on the market. The process allows a wider range of rubber levels in TPEs than conventional technology, he said.
Montell has a U.S. plant and one in Italy that can use the technology. It also is building a plant in the Netherlands that will be suitable for the hybrid polymerization process when it comes on stream next year.
Albizzati's talk caused a stir among delegates who were caught off-guard by the Montell move into metallocenes.
``We were totally surprised,'' said Balaji Singh, president of Houston-based Chemical Market Resources Inc., which sponsored Flexpo '96.