An Ohio-based PVC research project has taken off with $1 million in international funding.
Eight projects have been launched since September at colleges and universities in Ohio, Iowa, Colorado and Virginia, according to Chuck Wilkes, program director for the Edison Polymer Innovation Center. EPIC is a research partnership between the University of Akron (Ohio) and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
The $1 million total has been provided by 10 companies, six of which are based outside of the United States.
U.S.-based sponsors include Condea Vista Corp. of Houston; CertainTeed Corp. of Valley Forge, Pa.; Teknor Apex Co. of Pawtucket, R.I.; and Geon Co. of Avon Lake, Ohio. International backers include European Vinyls Corp. and Solvay Group, both of Belgium; LG Chemical Co. of South Korea; Hydro Polymers of Norway; SABIC of Saudia Arabia; and Grupo Primex of Mexico.
``There's an interest in PVC research, but nobody's developing new materials,'' Wilkes said. ``All the work has been in providing technical support to marketing. That's why we're seeing this interest.''
The eight projects were chosen from a list of 15 that was generated after a January meeting with two dozen interested firms. The projects covered a wide range of PVC development and included:
Developing a metallocene-based PVC that can compete with acrylates, polyester and nylon. Previous work in this area had been abandoned because vinyl chloride ruins metallocene catalysts that have been successful in polyethylene and polypropylene.
Wilkes said three EPIC projects — at the University of Akron, University of Iowa and Colorado State University — are aimed at developing new organic ligands that can protect metallocene catalysts from the effects of vinyl chloride.
Working on living, free-radical catalysis to create block copolymer PVC that can compete with thermoplastic elastomers. Two such projects being worked on at Case Western aim to combine PVC with propylene or other blocks to improve processability.
Combining PVC with new plasticizers and other polymer additives to create new blends and alloys similar to TPEs. Two of these projects are being conducted at the University of Akron.
Researching new heat stabilizers for high-heat applications. This project is headquartered at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.
Wilkes estimated EPIC will need almost $3 million to fund all 15 projects. To date, EPIC has focused on working with PVC producers, but Wilkes said the group is in the process of contacting additives makers, processors and equipment makers that could benefit from EPIC's research.
The first group of projects was chosen to provide a cornerstone for EPIC's work with PVC processing, Wilkes said.
``Developing a new resin is just the first step,'' he said. ``Then you have to learn how to compound it and process it.''
Making metallocene or other new types of PVC can open up the industry to different molecular structures and copolymers, according to Chuck Daniels, managing director of Geon's Polymer Diagnostics Inc. unit.
``Research has to be done and it has to be market-driven,'' Daniels said. ``Otherwise you're just looking at cost competition with existing processes.''
EPIC also plans to open a renovated vinyl chloride research lab at the University of Akron early next year. The lab will be equipped with state-of-the-art, environmental-monitoring equipment and will use combinatorial chemistry techniques in the hopes of commercializing new materials more quickly. The improvements are expected to cost about $300,000.