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

Kamron Knowlton portrait

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.
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Posted in I.S. Symposium 2021, Independent Study on April 7, 2021.