Polyolefin has become one of the most invaluable polymers produced globally. Its use in the commercial space especially, has been overwhelming. When it comes to the polymer industry, global production of polyolefin catalysts will continue to soar. Catalyst design has been instrumental in the modern industrial olefin polymerization processes, given that catalyst decide the way monomers will be linked in the polymer chain.
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The product being made from versatile polymers, incorporates fibers for clothing, carpets, pipes for gas and water, molded parts for bottles, foils for packaging, car parts and appliance housings.
One of the catalysts that has set the trend is Ziegler-Natta (ZN) catalyst which is a potent medium to polymerize a-olefins with steroselectivity and high linearity. ZN catalysts has proven to be fruitful to the global industry with reported production of over 160 billion pounds and production of various positions. A-olefins is catalyzed by ZN catalysts to produce a slew of commercial polymers, such as polypropylene, polyethylene and polybutene-1.
The popularity of the Ziegler Natta catalyst will create significant revenue opportunities for players given it is majorly used in polypropylene production for ZN is cost effective and can be easily managed to produce thermoplastic polyolefin. Notably, LLDPE and HDPE grades are made with Ziegler-Natta catalyst.
It is worth mentioning that high density polyethylene (HDPE) has found huge application in detergent bottles, garbage containers and water pipes given it possesses high tensile strength. Ziegler-Natta organometallic catalyst has been one of the pivotal catalysts used in the manufacture of HDPE.
Increased traction towards HDPE is mainly attributed to inherent properties of polyolefins and a range of application of polyolefin catalysts. Moreover, polyolefins can be recycled by incineration or mechanically. That said, given they constitute a large chunk of domestic garbage and fill up landfill sites, R&D activities emphasizing sustainable polyolefin production which can save raw material consumption and energy have surged in the recent past.
HDPE and LLDPE tend to be synthesized through the catalytic ethylene polymerization reaction at low temperatures and pressures. Prominently, LLDPEs that are prepared with the help of ZN catalysis have more uneven co-monomer distribution. Large chunk of HDPE is produced with the help of catalyst developed by the Phillips Petroleum Company.
Polypropylene, a thermoplastic polymer made from propylene’s polymerization, is being used in a range of applications such as ropes, food packaging, plastic parts, reusable containers, polymer banknotes and automotive components, among several others. Some of the polypropylene – impact copolymer, homopolymer, tend to use a range of catalyst components.
There has been considerable volume in series slurry reactors for Mitsui stirred-tank technology as both titanium and chromium systems are used as catalysts in producing HDPE.
The Automotive industry looks to cash in on the rising popularity of polyolefin catalysts
The competitive scenario in automotive industry has lately enhanced the demand for increased comfort and better fuel economy. The quantity of polyolefin materials used in the automotive industry has been driven by technological breakthroughs. For instance, polypropylene has been providing innovative solutions for myriad challenges faced by the auto industry. The cost-effective attribute and versatility of propylene have offered an innovative design concepts which improve comfort and passenger safety.
Some of the inherent properties of PP such as noise, vibration and harshness properties have bolstered passenger comfort, while lower density of PP has been instrumental in enhancing fuel economy and reduced raw material costs. Accordingly, propylene has become of the most highly sought-after thermoplastic material in automotive sector.
Given polyolefin materials use advanced catalysts and have balanced and tailor-made properties, polyolefin catalyst has risen in importance among automobile designers. Profound use of polyolefins in auto sector has led to weight reduction, thereby conserving fuel and adding comfort and safety.
While Clariant stated in 2018 that SABIC acquired 24.99% stake in the company, the news surfaced in August 2019 that both the companies put the deal on hold. Reportedly, Clariant will focus on divestment of pigments and will divest total Masterbatches business by the end of 2020. The company will focus on core business areas, including catalysis.
Grace acquired Albermarle Polyolefin Catalysts business in Q2 2018 to boost robustly growing polyethylene catalyst portfolio. The company will infuse investments in single-site catalysts technologies to underpin polyethylene manufacturing customers.
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Ziegler-Natta catalysts have been playing invaluable role in the production of propylene, HDPE and LLDPE. ZN catalyst is turning out to be a profitable business space as these catalysts are increasingly being used in myriad areas. As the demand for light weight components and fuel conservation increases, polyolefin catalyst industry trends will observe a remarkable transformation in the forthcoming years.
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