Developing Water-based Processes for New Polymerization Chemistries

Project Background

Co-PI’s: Dr. Timothy McKenna, Department of Chemical Engineering, Queen's University & CRC Polymer Reaction Engineering & Dr. Cathleen Crudden, Department of Chemistry, Queen's University

The past decade has seen exciting advances in polymerization chemistry in developments that enable much greater control of polymer microstructure than has been previously attainable. These techniques, known as “living polymerizations”, allow the synthesis of complex architectures required for many advanced material applications. These living polymerization techniques have been developed in solvent-based systems. Unfortunately, the use of solvent increases their cost and their environmental impact and acts as a barrier to commercialization. Dr. Cunningham’s research group has actively developed techniques and processes for adapting these new chemistries to water-based (aqueous) dispersions, thereby reducing or eliminating much of the environmental impact. The proposed research will focus on advancing understanding of two different types of living polymerization:  “Nitroxide-Mediated Polymerization” (NMP) and “Ring-Opening Metathesis Polymerization” (ROMP).

Nitroxide-Mediated Polymerization (NMP) in Water-based Dispersions: Significant progress has been made in the past decade conducting NMP in water-based dispersions. However, despite intense interest from industry in developing commercial products based on NMP, progress has been slow. One of the foremost challenges is resolving poorly understood fundamental issues that have plagued commercialization efforts. The long-term objective in this area is to advance fundamental understanding to facilitate successful implementation of a water-based process instead of a solvent-based process.

Ring Opening Metathesis Polymerization (ROMP) in Water-based Dispersions: ROMP, which is used to manufacture several industrially important polymers such as polynorbornene, has also become the subject of intense research interest for applications such as drug delivery. I propose to establish a research program that will methodically address fundamental and practical challenges of conducting ROMP in water-based dispersions, thereby eliminating the need for solvent and reducing energy consumption. Dr. Cathleen Crudden (Dept of Chemistry) has extensive expertise in ROMP and has committed to collaborating on this project.