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 TechNeed Challenge

Seeking a commercially viable way to convert high molecular weight polymer emulsions to a dry form

Convert high molecular weight polymers to powdered form

The Company supplies a variety of chemicals, including inverse emulsions that consist of a very high molecular weight, water-soluble polymer dispersed in a continuous oil phase. The typical ratio of the key components is approximately 1:1:1 polymer:water:oil. The company believes that technologies may readily exist that can convert these emulsions to powdered form.

The Company currently sells emulsion polymers to their paper industry customers. The emulsion polymers are cationic and anionic co-polymers of polyacrylamide. It would be highly desirable to have these emulsions converted into a powder form, water-soluble, without losing any of the polymer properties. Technologies may readily exist that can convert these emulsions to a powdered form.

Two major business benefits will result:

  1. Shipping costs will be dramatically reduced by shipping a powdered form.
  2. VOC limits (Volatile Organic Compounds) would not apply to powdered form emulsions.

VOCs are volatile organic compounds. Some US states place limits around VOCs and how much can be in a manufacturing plant. The company is limited in shipping their emulsions to some states due to strict VOC regulations, and many paper plants may already be at their maximum limit.

The problem of powder conversion is particularly difficult because of the oil in the emulsion. The oil is an aliphatic hydrocarbon with a low vapor pressure (0.023 kPa at 20°C) and a distillation temperature of 255°C.

Other industries that may have this same issue regarding emulsions include mining, water treatment, foods, packaging, non-wovens, and pharmaceuticals.

  • There can be no change in the polymer performance characteristics after the emulsion polymer is converted into a dry form.
  • The resultant polymer must remain water-soluble.

Known technologies include spray-drying and precipitation. Precipitation processes are based upon the water and oil being soluble in some polar solvents (acetone, low alcohols) while the high molecular weight polymer is insoluble in these solvents.

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