08/06/2018

NEW POLYMER FROM RUSSIA WITH UNIQUE PROPERTIES

08/06/2018
NEW POLYMER FROM RUSSIA WITH UNIQUE PROPERTIES
Tomsk scientists facilitated by the ECTC have developed a synthesis technology of a new polymer with unique properties. It is inflammable, biologically inert, and characterized by high strength and transparency. The polymer is several times cheaper and more available than the corresponding analogs, because it is easier to produce and is made using only the Russian raw materials. Its pilot production tests are currently under way.
But for our modesty, we would say that we have prepared a revolution in the composite material and engineering plastic market. Yet, for now, we have to confine ourselves to dry numbers and facts.

Polymer production in Russia: problems and prospects

In the last decade, the Russian polymer production market saw a good growth rate. As compared to 2010, the production of the five base polymers (polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, PVC, and PETF) has increased by 55%. In 2017, the production volume stepped over 5M tons, still the demand exceeds what the manufactures can supply.

In the market segment for composite materials and engineering plastics, the situation is even more sad. For decades, the country has been living on the imported products and technologies. A mere desire to replace the import of raw materials and semi-finished products by the home produce surely is not enough.

Engineering plastic and composite materials are everywhere in demand: in defense and civilian industry, for dual-purpose production. Many major companies are aware of the necessity to process crude oil into refined petroleum products of high added-value. The market for such products is wider, with higher prices, and, hence, a higher profit margin.

In 2008, the country laid a course for a complete self-efficiency as to supplying the defense orders. The government approved the federal target indicator for the production of strategic composite materials for the defense industry. It stipulates to abandon purchasing abroad of over 300 components by the year 2020. The 2014 sanctions only confirmed the government's intentions to follow this path. Some success has been achieved: the dependence on the imported composite materials earlier estimated to 50−55% dropped down to 35−40% by the year 2017. There are a number of reasons for the replacement of import composite materials and engineering plastics to be somewhat sluggish:
Most of the technologies and productions were lost in the post-Soviet era: either through physical extinction or being discontinued as no longer needed under the new economic policy of the 'Stanford pioneers'. (for example, the home production of epichlorohydrin, a major component for the epoxy resin synthesis, was 'killed').
An undeveloped inner market, low demand (for example, the absence of active development dynamics in the shipbuilding industry results in a lack of demand in the composites), personnel shortage.
A complex and long procedure to certify the new composite materials, the regulatory order of the development of standards and testing.
There is a need for new multi-functional polymers, but to organize a revolution on the production market of composite materials by the force of the ruling monopoly of Umatex Group (a Rosatom subdivision) alone does not deem possible.
Драйверы роста российского рынка композитов
Russian composites market growth drivers. Based on the questionnaire responses of the participants of the international conference Composites and Compounds 2017

New superpower polymer

The Engineering Center with the participations of its research and technological partners (Tomsk State University and LLC Novokhim) has developed a new multi-functional polymer with unique properties, which has no analog on the today’s market. Currently, the laboratory synthesis technology is finished and polished and the production testing is well under way at the Novokhim pilot production site. A patent registration application for several polymer versions has been drawn up.

The polymer is a resinous substance (a thermosetting resin resembling epoxy) synthesized on the basis of glycoluril and melamine. Depending on the polymerization conditions, polymers with different molecular mass can be formed, this determines the polymer properties and enables one to variate them in a sufficiently wide range
As compared with the conventional epoxy resin, 90% of which demand on the home market is met mostly by the Chinese suppliers, the new polymer is significantly cheaper and easier to synthesize. Combining the polymer with additional fillers can significantly improve its functional characteristics. For example, the composites containing cellulose are characterized by a greater impact viscosity and breaking and bending strength increased by several times.

Polycarbonate replacement

Of the currently available non-specialized polymers on the market, polycarbonate has more or less similar physical and chemical properties, including transparency.

In Russia before 2008, the polycarbonate production used raw materials imported exclusively from Japan, China, Germany, and Israel. The startup of Kazanorgsintez plant with the annual production capacity of 65 tons has partially close the gap in the granulate production, giving a development impetus to the home market.

The story with polycarbonate is somewhat like the story with the rise of the gasoline price. The Kazan plant, as well as oil industry, care less to whom they sell their production. If the world price dynamics and forex trends prompt them that it is more profitable to export — so they export.

It is called maintaining the CIF parity. While the government is trying to call the oil producers for the sense of shame, polycarbonate granulate is not considered a strategic product. As a result, the profit margin of the high value-added products goes down, and the market is being taken up by more surrogate products containing large amounts of secondary additions. This can completely compromise the polycarbonate products.

The situation is very much the same with the polymethyl acrylate production in Russia. It was formerly produced by OAO Dzerzhinskoye Orgsteklo. In 2014, the company was adjudged bankrupt. Now its territory is good perhaps only for shooting post-apocalypse movies or playing paintball.

As far as the technological production parameters are concerned, the new polymer surpasses polycarbonate, polyvinylchloride and other synthetic plastics. It requires less time to be synthesized, and the product output is higher.

All the raw materials required for the production are of the Russian origin, thus, the production cost of the final product is significantly less than that of the existing analogs.

The synthesis process is simpler and more environment-friendly. While the polycarbonate products require addition of antipyrenes, the new polymer is not flammable by itself.

Synthetic polymers usually have a low QUV resistance. So in order to achieve high operational characteristics, it is necessary to add UV-stabilizers. For the polymer invented by Tomsk scientists, it is not required.

Possible usage

The possible usage of the new polymer can be very wide: from the replacement of heavy aviation alloys used in rocket and aircraft building to manufacturing of safe and transparent containers for the food transportation.
In civil engineering, the polymer, as a component of a composite material, can enhance the strength of constructions and their resistance to high temperature and hostile environment.

It should be specifically mentioned about the burial and utilization of the toxic wastes. They can be poured with a resin-like polymer, which will solidify and prevent the hazardous substances from releasing into environment.

The new polymer has already attracted some attention of businesses in Europe. We are hoping that the Russian industry will get interested too. The Engineering Center is prepared to provide sample materials for testing and perform the production scaling as demanded by the market.
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