Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering, Vol.99, No.1, 5-30, 2021
Design of polymeric materials: Experiences and prescriptions
As process engineering has matured, research interest has shifted towards polymer product quality. In the past 20 years or so, the shift has progressed even further, as interest in polymer product quality has morphed into polymer product design. Product design is intended to be a targeted pursuit of optimal conditions that will yield polymers with desirable properties for a specific application. This can be achieved by following a systematic design framework that employs sequential, iterative steps informed by prior knowledge and experience. This overview provides some background information regarding the need for design (including some examples from previous experience), especially in terms of structure-property relationships. When links between kinetics (synthesis conditions), polymer structure, and application properties are well-understood, it becomes possible to essentially reverse-engineer the polymeric material; the researcher can start with known application requirements and synthesize polymers with tailor-made properties using an optimized recipe (according to the polymerization kinetics). A suggested design approach is presented herein, followed by the application of the design approach to two large case studies. The number of applications for polymeric materials is essentially limitless; the current work provides typical examples of a systematic polymeric material design framework (and related case studies).