The Synthesis of Bio-Based Degradable Super Absorbent Polymers Through Employment of Multimetallic Catalysts

April 7, 2021   /  

Student Name: Kamron Knowlton
Major: Chemistry
Advisor: Lilliana S. Morris

Polymers are an ever growing part of our daily lives through their brief product lifespans as commercial consumer goods to being components of electronics, containers, and structures. An industrial super absorbent polymer (SAP) is one of many types of polymers that possess the unique ability to absorb then retain water and are often derived from non-renewable petroleum sources. Sodium polyacrylate is an example of an industrial petroleum based SAP that can be later replaced by greener alternatives to reduce the increasing detrimental effects of synthetic polymers in nature due to the population’s growing demand for plastics. In this study a bio-degradable plant-based SAP was formed using multimetallic catalyst to replace and modulate sodium polyacrylate. Many trials of double metal cyanide (DCM) catalyst polymerizations were conducted with marginal success in producing the desired bio-based degradable SAP. Results of the study leave many questions but conclude that tweaking of polymerization conditions is necessary to reduce the appearance of undesirable byproducts and increase the efficiency of catalyst utilized. The development of greener polymers requires extensive trial and error experimentation on the conditions of polymerization, in order to produce the most efficient procedure for future mass productions of renewable biodegradable polymers. Multimetallic catalyst are a fascinating part of polymer chemistry that is not well known to most who know what a catalyst is. My project has direct ties to improving environmental efforts through the use of multimetallic catalyst, reducing plastic waste from SAP products such as diapers.

View Kamron’s presentation. (NOTE: A Wooster login is required to view this presentation)

Kamron will be online to field comments on April 16: 10am-noon EDT (Asia: late evening, PST 6am-8am, Africa/Europe: late afternoon). Join Kamron on Teams for a video chat from 10am-noon.

7 thoughts on “The Synthesis of Bio-Based Degradable Super Absorbent Polymers Through Employment of Multimetallic Catalysts”

  1. Congrats Kam! I can tell you put a lot of hard work into this and it surely paid off. Amazing work!

  2. Hey Kam, awesome poster! And congrats on successfully getting results! I have a question about the epoxide byproducts. How did you predict these byproducts and which NMR data indicated that byproducts were formed?

    1. Hey An, great question. After ending my two polymerization reactions that ran for 144 hours, I took 2D HSQC and COSY data to get more extensive information on what I formed. HSQC shows the correlations between carbon and proton signals, giving me the ability to see distinct CH, CH2 and CH3 signals. COSY shows carbon-carbon relations and amongst other things allowed me to see any signals that did not correlate with a carbon such as an alcohol group! A lot more information can be found within 2D spectra than in typical proton and carbon NMR!

  3. Great job Kamron! This is so cool. Based on your study, do you think that one day this would be an economically viable solution to non-biodegradable waste in certain industries?

    1. Yes! My original goal was to make the synthesis of the polymer as industrially relevant as possible. The catalyst I use is actually used in large scale industrial polymerization and highly reusable. The components to make the polymer renewable comes from the monomers being derived from fatty acids, a naturally occurring, low cost, carbon-chain with an alkene and carboxylic acid. The use of both of these catalysts and monomers were in hopes of making it more economically viable for industries.

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