NEW YORK — Dow Plastics' new Index interpolymers, introduced at a Dec. 11 press briefing in New York, are being targeted at replacing flexible PVC and ethylene vinyl acetate in a variety of applications.
Dow has produced Index, which combines ethylene and styrene molecules, at a 1-million-pound-per-year plant in Freeport, Texas, since early 1997. A 50-million-pound-per-year market development plant is scheduled to open in Sarnia, Ontario, in September 1999. The materials will be commercialized late next year.
Long-term plans call for opening a world-scale plant — producing as much as 400 million pounds annually — by late 2001. Dow officials said there's a good chance this plant will be located in the United States.
Index is the latest material to utilize Dow's Insite-brand, single-site technology.
``You use an index to find exactly what you're looking for,'' Insite Vice President Ed Gambrell said. ``That's how our customers will use Index in the future.''
Gambrell said Index reflects a breakthrough in the ability to reliably combine ethylene and styrene in a single polymer.
Previously, the styrene molecule's larger size caused any catalyst to migrate to the smaller ethylene molecule, which made polymerization difficult. This problem was overcome by the precise molecular control offered by Insite technology, Dow officials said.
``With Index, copolymerization isn't just possible, it's predictable,'' Gambrell said. ``This is a whole new body of material science.''
Potential markets for Index include flooring, packaging foam, tarps, tablecloths, toys, protective film, carpet backing and automotive parts. Dow officials said Index can be injection molded, extruded, calendered and blow molded. It can also be blended with most major plastics including polypropylene, polystyrene, nylon, polycarbonate and PET.
Dow can control the material's ethylene and styrene content, with as little as 25 percent ethylene or as much as 80 percent.
Initially, Index will be available in an E series line and S series line. The high-ethylene E series will offer flexibility, abrasion resistance, low-temperature toughness and paintability, while the high-styrene S series will be focused on clarity, printability, sound absorption and thermoformability.
The product will sell for between 75 and 90 cents per pound.
Other Dow products made with Insite technology include Elite PE, Affinity plastomers, Engage elastomers and Nordel IP EPDM.