Automatic Control of Polymer Molecular Weight during Synthesis

Fluence Analytics and its academic research partner Tulane PolyRMC collaborated on a peer review article for Macromolecules which discusses using ACOMP to automatically control polymer molecular weight during synthesis. The continuous record of monomer and polymer concentrations, Cm and Cp, and cumulative weight-average mass, Mw, furnished by automatic continuous online monitoring of polymerization reactions (ACOMP) has been harnessed to provide feedback to control reactor monomer flow in order to follow a target trajectory Mw,t(t) during linear chain growth free radical polymerization. This was achieved without a detailed kinetic model. Two proportionality parameters to pilot the controller, α and p, result from (i) reaction rate = αCm and (ii) Mw,inst = pCm, where Mw,inst is instantaneous Mw. Using Ansatz values for α and p, the controller periodically recomputes these, based on the ACOMP data stream, in order to follow Mw,t(t). A histogram of concentration vs Mw,inst estimates the molecular weight distribution width. Invoking an instantaneous distribution provides polydispersities. Results are compared to GPC analysis on end products. The concept of “isomorphic reaction pair” is introduced: two reactions that follow the same trajectory under different reaction variables, e.g., varying T at constant [initiator] and varying [initiator] at T = constant. The controller can be used, as is, for high solids reactions, and extended to copolymerization, including for possible control of composition gradients in controlled radical polymerization.

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