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Reaction Engineering of Heterogeneously Catalysed Polymerisation


In order that European Industry be able to extract the
maximum benefit from heterogeneously catalysed gas phase
polymerisation, much fundamental scientific work must be
done in process development, heat and mass transfer,
development and morphology of the catalyst particles,
how the catalysts, and the characterisation of the
reactors and their hydrodynamics. The adaptation of the
economically important family of metallocenes for use as
heterogeneous (gas phase) catalysts needs significant
work Heterogeneously catalysed polymerisation (e.g. for
the production of polyolefins) is an economically
important area of activity in Europe (approximately 7
billion ECUs in 1994), and is growing constantly as new
catalysts (e.g. metallocenes) and new gas phase processes
are developed to replace solution processes using organic
Current problems faced in industry that limit the
exploitation of new polymers and processes are:
reactor runaway due to heat and mass transfer
problems, and reactor stability
Iack of direct on line sensors to monitor changes in
the reactor and control product quality,
Iack of techniques for producing sticky polymers in
gas phase reactors (esp. fluidised beds).
Iack of simulation tools for fluid dynamics and
mixing in reactors (esp. multi phase systems),
a history of empirical reactor and process
Iack of detailed knowledge/understanding of what
takes place in the reactor.

These problems will be resolved through the final results
of this programme, which include:
Newer, cleaner, safer processes for the manufacture of
new specialty polymers: creation of new markets,
and manufacturing of elastomeric products such as PP, and
Ultra low density PE, all in the gas phase.
Concrete model of the hydrodynamics of a fluidised bed
polymerisation reactor for process development. Also,
construction of a flexible pilot plant for use in
education and research.
Commercialisable software for complex flow systems with
simultaneous heat and mass transf`er and reaction.
Revolutionary integrated software for reactor
simulation: includes scale up and design of
advanced control systems, methods for prediction and
avoidance of reactor melt down (currently
unavailable anywhere).
New fundamental description of heat transfer to small
(less than 50 microns), active particles: a
particulanty of these new, highly active systems.
New thermodynamic models and data for polymerising

The consortium is composed of: Solvay, a chemicals and
pharmaceuticals company. They wish to explorc the
development and optimisation of new gas phase catalysts
and processes for sticky polymers, and advanced process
control; DSM is a polyolefin and rubber manufacturer who
wish to explore the development of new processes for the
manufacture elastomers in the gas phase; Atochem, a major
polyolefin producer (including polypropylene) that wants
to explore the fundamental scientific aspects of new gas
phase processes; Fluent is software producer, with
expertise in simulations and calculations who will help
in model building and in the development of efficient
solution algorithms and computing techniques; Polimi,
with expertise in thermodynamic and physical chemistry
fundamentals; CPERI, experts in fluid dynamics,
fluidisation, mathematical modelling and process
development; CNRS who deal with catalyst chemistry,
polymer reaction engineering, and polyolefins; Twente is
well versed in aspects of reaction engineering, and has
extensive experience in high pressure polymerisations.


Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

69390 Vernaison

Participants (7)

DSM Performance Polymers BV

6130 AA Sittard
Elf Atochem SA
4 & 8,Cours Michelet
92091 Paris La Défense 10
FLUTEC - Computational Fluid Dynamics Software and Services Ltd.
57008 Thessaloniki
Fluent Europe Ltd
United Kingdom
146 West Street
S1 4ES Sheffield
Via Mancinelli 7
20131 Milano
310,Rue De Ransbeek 310
1120 Bruxelles
Universiteit Twente

7500 AE Enschede