For decades, polymer scientists around the world have searched for ways to improve the compatibility of polyolefins with other materials. Many avenues have been explored but none led to the ideal solution.
That was until a team at the University of Warwick’s Chemistry Department made a breakthrough.
Professor Peter Scott and his PhD student, Christopher Kay, invented a new class of polymer additives that have the potential to revolutionise the polyolefin industry.
‘I was aware that block co-polymers were, in theory, considered to be the ideal type of additive to promote compatibility,’ said Chris.
‘But like everyone else before me, I wasn’t really getting anywhere in my efforts to make them’.
After six years of deep research and numerous trials, I thought I’d try looking at it from a totally different perspective.
In experiments, Dr Kay created a co-polymer comprising a polyolefin segment joined to a polar polymer segment. When added in small percentages to polyolefin resins, such as polyethylene or polypropylene, the additive molecules migrated to the surface and rendered them more attractive to other polar materials such as metals, ceramics and polar plastics, including those containing acrylic, styrene and vinyl acetate-based polymers. The team’s unique discovery gave them the ability to independently modify both segments in the co-polymer chain.
Through the ICURe programme (Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research) Dr Kay was able to access funding from Innovate UK to market test the concept with over one hundred potential customers, and then go on to create a new commercial company, Interface Polymers Ltd, as a spin-out from the University of Warwick.
‘Polarfin® is the new brand name for our additive technology and so far we’ve had really positive feedback from the industry. I think you’ll be hearing a lot more about our products in the future,’ said Chris.
Dr Kay, who is now Chief Scientific Officer at Interface Polymers Ltd, puts the discovery down to two things. ‘I changed my mindset in addressing the problem and that enabled me to take a different approach. Even then, I couldn’t have done all this without the help and supervision of Professor Scott. He was inspirational, totally supportive and a major influence in my work.’
“Working with Professor Scott, I undertook further experiments, then discovered a simple two-step process using commercially available reagents which finally solved the problem.”
The story so far.
Polarfin® additives will transform the performance and cost competitiveness of polyolefin-based materials across a diverse range of market applications. There is potential to add substantial value in the packaging, construction, agriculture and automotive sectors, where our ability to satisfy demand for improved compatibility and surface functionality is opening up a world of new business opportunities.
We are working with customers, suppliers and business partners up and down the supply chain to develop new formulation solutions, both for the unmet needs of today’s markets and the requirements of tomorrow’s innovative applications.
Polarfin® additives offer simple and effective solutions to the challenges presented by the low surface energy and non-polar character of polyolefin surfaces. They also eliminate the need for sub-optimal surface modification treatments that bring unwanted disadvantages such as high processing costs, inconsistent quality and logistical complications. As a result, Polarfin® additives will help you to drive costs down and make step changes in product quality.
Polarfins® are a new range of polymer additives that modify the properties of the world’s most commonly used plastics – polyethylene and polypropylene – making them easier to mix, glue, paint and coat.
Our current focus is on scaling-up production of Polarfin® additives and developing formulations to suit the needs of specific high value applications. We are also looking to work with others to develop new material solutions in areas where collaboration and joint ventures make sound business sense.
With such a vast addressable market and unique patented technology, our business growth plans are highly ambitious.
The global polyolefin market* is worth $150 billion per annum and continues to expand with a CAGR of at least 6%. We believe this growth will accelerate as Polarfin® additives open up new higher-value application opportunities and herald a new era of innovation in thermoplastics.
Interface Polymers Ltd has started a revolution in Polyolefins. Join us and shape the future.
*Polyolefins Market by Type (Polyethylene, Polypropylene, and Functional Polyolefins, Application (Film & Sheet, Injection Molding, Blow Molding, Fibers & Raffia), and Region – Global Forecasts to 2021. MarketsandMarkets INC. USA.
We want to acknowledge the help and support we have received from Innovate UK.
Without their funding and encouragement we wouldn’t have progressed so far in such a short time. Thanks to the iCURE programme (Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research) Dr Kay was able to market test the product concept with over one hundred potential customers and go on to spin out Interface Polymers Ltd from the University of Warwick. Read more