Over the last 15 years the discovery of metallocene-based catalysts for the polymerisation of olefins has rejuvenated and innovated the polyolefin industry in an unprecedented way. Whole families of new polymer and copolymer materials that were previously inaccessible can now be made at will and with predetermined properties. These materials are now breaking into new types of applications, and consequently this is internationally a highly competitive research area. More recently, in addition to the well known and highly successful metallocene catalysts, a range of non- metallocene complexes have been developed which show high activity for the polymerisation of alkenes, copolymerisations of alkenes with CO, and for copolymerisations with polar monomers. These catalysts promise to produce new ranges of materials that are not accessible today, and consequently there is intense international research effort in this area. In addition, industry realises that polymers derived from sustainable sources and which are biodegradable will be increasingly important. In particular, research in underway to find new, selective catalysts for the synthesis of polyesters, notably polylactide from biomass. Many of the non-metal locene catalyst types suitable for olefin polymerisation are equally suitable here. The work is likely to produce results with high industrial potential and exploitable IPR. As is in the nature of catalysis research, the distance from invention to implementation and wealth generation can be very short for successful catalysts. The project will provide high-quality scientific training in an industrially highly relevant and sought-after area and reinforce the European research potential.
Fields of science
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