Annual Report 2001 - Cornell University
003 Selected Faculty Research

02 Ushering in a New Class of Plastics

Geoffrey Coates, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and his research team discovered a new class of rubbery plastics that could be used for products ranging from roofing to adhesives to shoe soles. The new material uses ethylene and polyethylene, which are common, as its feedstock and would dramatically reduce production costs. Coates made this serendipitous discovery as he was searching for a catalyst—a substance that increases the rate of chemical reaction without changing itself chemically—that would enable the new polymer to be grown from molecules of ethylene andpropylene. Coates's new material is in a class of compounds called thermoplastic elastomers. Unlike most rubbers, these can be melted and recycled, and they can be changed from a tough rubber to a soft rubber. The rubbers currently used in this class are polymers made from styrene and butadiene, which are expensive chemicals.

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© 2002 by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research [OVPR], Cornell University.

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