New Catalyst Could Lower Processing Costs

Expect lower production costs for a wide range of consumer goods, including soaps, detergents, oils, and plastics. Research chemists at the University of Rochester say that use of an increasingly popular class of catalysts known as metallocenes could eliminate the need for extreme processing temperatures and pressures when making alpha-olefins, which are used to produce plastics. Instead of the 400F-500F and 100-200 atmospheres needed with aluminum or nickel catalysts, the new material can do its work at one atmosphere of pressure and at temperatures just slightly above room temperature, says researcher Guillermo Bazan, associate professor of chemistry. "The new catalyst appears to yield products that are virtually 100% pure, a trait that's increasingly desirable in industry," says alpha-olefin expert Rick Kemp, senior research scientist at Union Carbide Corp. (Kemp was not involved in the research.)

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