• Controlled olefin polymerization catalysts (Macromolecules 2004, 37, 8201)

  • Molecular kinetics of olefin polymerization (JACS 2010, 132, 13651)

  • Structure-activity relationships in molecular catalysis (Macromolecules 2012, 45, 4046)

  • Computational modeling of industrial Ziegler-Natta catalysts (J. Catal. 2012, 286, 103)

  • Microstructural study of PP ‘chain shuttling’ (Macromolecules 2007, 40, 7736)

HomeResearchScope and Objective

Scope and Objective

LSP research focuses on Ziegler-Natta catalysis, that is the chemical technology for the production of the largest and most important class of synthetic polymers: polyolefins. Here we include in the definition heterogeneous as well as molecular catalysts (metallocene and non-metallocene based, in solution or on supports).

The growth of the polyolefin market has been exponential since the pioneering discoveries of Ziegler and Natta in the 1950s, and in spite of the current financial crisis the positive trend is expected to continue in the foreseeable future. In 2011-2012, with the start-up of several large production lines in the Persian Gulf area (next to the oil fields), the global installed capacity of the polyolefin industry exceeded 150 MT per year (Figure 1). The growing impact of coal and shale gas, on the other hand, may soon trigger production in other geographic areas as well.  


Figure 1. Development of global installed capacity of the polyethylene and polypropylene industry (1958-2011). Source: J. Jansz, Fifth Annual India Chemical Industry Outlook Conference, Mumbai, 23-24 February 2012; http://www.chemweek.com/Assets/Session3_EBB_Jansz.pdf


We cannot disagree more with the idea of polyolefins as harmful to our environment. Polyolefin industry borrows some unsaturated hydrocarbon gas, solidifies it into products with smart applications, and after a life cycle of many years possibly including re-usage returns it for energy production via safe incineration. Moreover, olefin polymerization proceeds under very mild conditions with practically 100% atom economy. All this considered, our unbiased conclusion is that polyolefins are the greenest of all non-green chemical products. In fact, they are greener than most green ones too, once the energy and water footprint is taken into account.

Behind the extraordinary success of polyolefins on the market are the outstanding cost/effectiveness balance of Ziegler-Natta catalysts and processes, and the control over polymer architecture that they afford. The application properties of a polyolefin-based material are exquisitely dependent on chain microstructure, degree of branching and molar mass distribution, and the fine-tuning of these features via a proper tailoring of the catalytic species is key to further innovation. Recent breakthroughs, like e.g. olefin block copolymerization by means of tandem catalysis in the presence of ‘chain shuttling’ agents (Science 2006, 312, 714-719), demonstrate that there is still room for major improvements. Exploiting this potential, whenever possible by means of rational thinking more than trial-and-error, is the main general objective of LSP research. 

logo final instmlogo final dpilogo final htexplorelogo final bluesky