The Edison Polymer Innovation Corp. has granted its first license to produce a new heavy-metal-free PVC stabilizer.
Akron, Ohio-based EPIC, a research group funded by the PVC industry, is declining to identify the licensee, saying only that the firm is ``a leading U.S. corporation.'' Researchers at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. - led by William Starnes - developed the new stabilizer.
The new stabilizer is based on esther thiols, which are considered more environmentally friendly than previously used lead or cadmium. The new stabilizers can be used with either rigid or flexible PVC, Starnes said in a recent phone interview.
``If the thiols can replace heavy metals, they should make environmentalists happy,'' said Starnes, who has worked to develop plastics and related materials for more than 40 years. ``They'll definitely make the industry happy.''
Commercial PVC materials using the new stabilizer could be available as early as 2007, Starnes said. William and Mary researchers - including Bin Du and Elizabeth Culyba - began work on the project in 2000.
The commercialization is the first such accomplishment for EPIC, a 21-member technology consortium formed in 1999.
Since then, the group has spent about $7.5 million on PVC-related research projects at William and Mary, the University of Akron, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago, Case Western Reserve University and Colorado State University. All of those projects are now complete and moving into commercial stages, according to Chuck Wilkes, EPIC's executive director.
Proceeds from licensing the esther thiol plasticizers will be split between EPIC and William and Mary, Wilkes said. Wilkes also declined to identify the licensee, but would confirm that it was an EPIC member that doesn't produce its own stabilizers. The licensee plans to have an outside firm use the technology make the materials, Wilkes said.
The next EPIC technology to be commercialized could be living radical polymerization work led by Virgil Percec at Penn. Wilkes said the project - which creates internally plasticized block copolymers - has drawn a lot of interest from the PVC market.
As for future EPIC projects, Wilkes said that decision would be made based on the rate of commercial success yielded by the initial round of work.
Starnes - who has worked for Exxon Corp., Bell Labs and the University of Texas in his long career - sounds like he's ready for more.
``I'd like to do more research in this area,'' he said. ``There's an old saw in the research business that says if good research is successful, it asks more questions than it answers.''