Plastics News staff reporter Frank Esposito gathered the following items at Metcon 98, held June 10-11 in Houston.
Taiwanese center enters catalyst fray
Union Chemical Laboratories, a nonprofit research center in Hsinchu, Taiwan, has developed new metallocene catalysts for polyethylene, polystyrene and ethylene propylene diene monomer.
``We know the big companies of the world are far ahead of us, but we think we've developed some unique applications and technology,'' Shian-Jy Wang said. Wang is deputy director of UCL's metallocene-based polymer program.
Launched in 1994 with funding from nine Taiwanese petrochemical companies, UCL now works with more than 15 firms that supply about 20 percent of UCL's $5 million annual budget. The Taiwanese government supplies the remainder of the funding for UCL and its 42 researchers.
UCL has completed pilot runs using its syndiotactic PS catalyst and plans to test its metallocene PE later this year, Wang said. Those products, and its metallocene EPDM, were introduced last July.
New testing method saves suppliers' time
Technology developed by a California firm may make it a lot easier to test new catalysts.
Symyx Technologies of Santa Clara, Calif., is bringing its combinational chemistry method to plastics after finding success in pharmaceuticals, said Symyx group leader Hans van Beek. The technology allows for testing and evaluation of many materials at once using computer libraries of compounds. The system is expected to be many times faster than individual catalyst testing.
Metallocenes offer advantages for PP
A polypropylene veteran says metallocene researchers would be better off spending time on catalysts for PP instead of for low and linear low density polyethylene.
In particular, metallocene technology should be able to improve PP's crush resistance and flame retardance, said Neville Scott, a consultant based in Benmore, South Africa.
``PP has a number of well-known limitations which [if solved] ... should enable the polymer to penetrate additional end uses and grow worldwide at an even faster rate,'' said Scott, who will relocate his business to Stamford, England, later this year.
Scott worked in PP for 35 years, first with what is now ICI plc in England and later with a large South African converter.
Metallocenes could incorporate intermolecular bonds to improve PP's crush resistance and could add flame retardants to PP molecules to make them similar to flame-retardant polyester, he said.
DuPont Dow predicts growth for Engage
DuPont Dow Elastomers expects sales of its Engage polyolefin elastomers to reach $100 million this year.
The 4-year-old firm is planning its fourth expansion and will introduce improved grades of its Nordel IP-brand EPDM in late 1998 and early 1999, said Robert Snyder, global commercial development manager for the Wilmington, Del.-based venture between Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co.
He declined to give details of the new expansion but confirmed that a previously announced, 50 percent boost in Engage capacity will be on line in Freeport, La., later this year.