Single-step, surfactant-free polymerization of amphiphilic block copolymers in water

Market Overview:

There is a growing need for polymers in various applications such as drug delivery, product coatings, adhesives, and even semiconductors. The overall market for controlled radical polymerization products has been estimated to be worth roughly $20 billion. However, this expanding market  needs solutions for long-standing issues including polymer processing times, material costs, and other manufacturing parameters. Clemson University researchers have developed a novel method of polymer synthesis to address these challenges. This approach has been shown to reduce processing times by creating a single step procedure, and can eliminate the use of surfactants in emulsion polymerization. Additionally, this technology produces ultra-high molecular weight block polymers that are unachievable by traditional methods. Such advancements allow for easier and more cost efficient production of block polymers from a manufacturing perspective.


Application                                                                  Stage of Development

Latex paints, Coatings, Fluorocopolymers,                  Preliminary prototype

Injection molding



• Provides a single-step synthesis procedure, reducing reaction times required from several hours or days to

  under one hour.

• Surfactant-free polymerization reduces the need for materials, minimizing processing costs.

• Ultra-High Molecular Weight (UHMW) copolymers can be synthesized, forming phase-separated

  morphologies for a broad range of applications.


Technical Summary

This copolymer synthesis method allows for single-step synthesis of amphiphilic block copolymers without the need of surfactants. The polymerization initially involves the formation of water-soluble homopolymer blocks, followed by copolymerization of a hydrophobic monomer. This results in ultra-high molecular weight polymers controlled by heterogeneous reaction conditions and a continuous supply of initiator. These heterogeneous reaction conditions allow for phase separation of hydrophilic and hydrophobic monomers to facilitate more efficient polymerization under the initiator-starvation conditions. Through phase-separated synthesis, Clemson researchers have been able to create various colloidal nanoparticles that comprise ultra-high molecular weight polymers. 


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Inventors:                         Dr. Marek W. Urban


Patent Type:                     Provisional


Serial Number:                62/420,221


CURF Ref No:                 2016-015

Patent Information:
Advanced Materials
For Information, Contact:
Andy Bluvas
Technology Commercialization Officer
Clemson University Research Foundation
Marek Urban
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