Pittsburgh — Emmett Crawford and Thomas Pecorini, two top researcher chemists at Eastman Chemical Co., were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society of Plastics Engineers' Blow Molding division.
Crawford and Pecorini each have more than 50 patents. Crawford was the lead inventor of Eastman's Tritan-brand copolyester. Dante Rutstrom, Eastman's vice president of advanced materials technology, called Tritan "certainly one of the most important innovations in Eastman's history."
"And I would argue that it's probably one of the more significant new polymer introductions in recent years, as well for the whole industry," Rutstrom added.
Rutstrom talked about the two men, both technology fellows at Eastman, during a riverboat cruise and awards dinner in Pittsburgh Oct. 9 at the division's Annual Blow Molding Conference.
The conference drew 330 attendees. Conference Chairman Cal Becker, a technical associate at Eastman, has worked with Pecorini. Becker joked that if he works late at Eastman, Pecorini's car is always in the parking lot — unless he's on vacation.
Rutstrom said the title of fellow is rare at Eastman, based in Kingsport, Tenn.
"That is not easily earned, as a very, very small fraction of our employees have achieved that level of status, and it's because of their numerous scientific contributions. That really requires that they do both breadth and depth, expertise at a very deep level across boundaries," he said. "So both of these guys earned that, actually, fairly early in their careers, which is also very impressive."
Crawford joined Eastman in 1999 after earning a doctorate in polymer science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Eastman introduced Tritan in 2007 just as some consumers and manufacturers were turning against polycarbonate for consumer products. Demand for the new material grew rapidly.
"If you're at Eastman and you hear Emmett's name, you immediately think of the Tritan," Rutstrom said.
He said Crawford worked hard to develop blow molding applications for Tritan, cracking the sports bottle market. Crawford also worked with Pecorini to develop five-gallon water bottles.
Pecorini came to Eastman in 1992 after earning a doctorate in materials science from Lehigh University. He was responsible for a number of new-product launches, including DuraStar, a copolyester Eastman launched in 1995.
"It didn't take him long to contribute, after getting to Eastman just a couple of years earlier," Rutstrom said. "In 2007, he worked to help launch Tritan. More recently, he's been responsible for our Treva platform, which is based on our cellulose ester chemistry."
As vice president of materials technology, Rutstrom said, he leads an organization of about 300 people, and he has access to the broader Eastman technology group of around 1,200 employees.
"But these are the two go-to guys that I always lean on first and foremost," he said, pointing to Crawford and Pecorini. "So, they get the toughest problems, the most impactful problems. These are two guys that I turn to, and they get it done."