Karl Johnson and John Keith unlocked the secrets of Polyisobutylene’s reaction mechanism

Karl Johnson and John Keith lead a collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and Wickliffe, Ohio-based Lubrizol Corporation to unlock the secrets of Polyisobutylene (PIB)’s reaction mechanism.

PIB is a workhorse polymer that is found in a multitude of products, ranging from chewing gum, to tires, to engine oil and gasoline additives. Although commercially produced in large quantities since the 1940s, PIB chemistry was a mystery – scientists weren’t sure how the reaction mechanism that creates the polymer happens at the molecular level, which limited further potential. 

Solving this catalytic puzzle is of interest to Lubrizol, which specializes in ingredients and additives for polymer-based products. Utilizing the University’s Center for Research Computing to analyze the molecular processes, the Pitt/Lubrizol group found that the assumed reaction mechanism was not correct and that initiation of the reaction requires a “superacid” catalyst. 

The group’s findings were published this month in the journal ACS Catalysis (DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.8b01494). The research group included students Yasemin Basdogan, Bridget S. Derksen, and Minh Nguyen Vo, and Lubrizol researchers Adam Cox, research chemist, Cliff Kowall, technical fellow of process development, and Nico Proust, R&D technology manager.

Written by Paul Kovach.

Read more here