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PhD student-Designing the industrial synthesis of functional polymeric materials substitutes - Belgium  

Ghent University (company)

Posted on : 08 March 2017

Project Description

  • Scale-up is performed for the synthesis of functional polymeric materials. Both non-dispersed (e.g. bulk/solution) and dispersed polymerization (e.g. emulsion) are considered. 
  • Main focus is on radical polymerization techniques. 

  • Radical polymerization processes play an important role in everyday life. 
  • Currently, there is a trend to increase the product quality by expanding the application range to high-tech applications. 
  • For the latter, an excellent microstructural control is required and this for each molecule in the polymerization reactor. 
  • Typically this microstructural control is achieved via an exchange of a functional group X, selecting nitroxide mediated polymerization (NMP) as controlled radical polymerization technique (CRP). CRP allows the synthesis of well-tailored next-generation specialty copolymer architectures due to a better control over the molecular parameters, such as the chain length, functionality and topology.
  •  Targeted applications are for instance coatings, drug delivery systems and adhesives. 
  • Numerous publications have been attributed to understanding the CRP kinetics at lab-scale under isothermal conditions and in bulk/solution. 
  • However, less attention has been given to the reactor design, simulation, optimization and control of these CRPs under industrial conditions, which can involve intensive heat transfer and stirrer work. 
  • The study of CRPs in reactors and their non-isothermal operation is an important requirement for CRP processes to find their way into large scale commercial products. 
  • A key aspect to be covered is a comparison of conventional non-dispersed (bulk/solution) and dispersed (suspension/emulsion) CRPs.
  •  The former are less complex but suffer from strong temperature gradients whereas the latter are more complex but allow a better heat transfer due to the presence of an aqueous continuous phase.

  • Comparison of polymerization kinetics under non-dispersed and dispersed CRP conditions, considering industrially relevant monomers and different reactor configurations.
  • Both experimental and modeling techniques can be considered. 
  • Extension to copolymerization processes, involving the synthesis of block, gradient and star copolymers.  

Profile of the candidate 
  • Applicants must possess a MSc in Chemical Engineering or related subject and a TOEFL certificate with a minimum score of 95(iBT) or equivalent. 
  • Relevant experience in the area of reactor engineering, kinetics, and/or computational chemistry is strongly recommended. 
  • Candidates must have a strong mathematical background and be willing to focus on obtaining quantitative rather than qualitative results. 

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