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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 18, 2017

Water-swellable elastomers: synthesis, properties and applications

Lorenzo M. Polgar

Lorenzo M. Polgar passed both of his bachelor studies and his master’s in chemistry and chemical engineering at the University of Groningen with cum laude and received the “spinoza encouragement award” and the “GUF-100 prize for excellent students.” During his master’s studies, he specialized in polymeric products and performed a project on EOR, resulting in two publications. His PhD research on recyclable rubbers was also awarded cum laude and received a lot of attention from the media.

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, Francesca Fallani

Francesca Fallani received her PhD from the University of Pisa in 2004, with research on the (photo)-chemical modification of polyolefins. From 2004 to 2006, she worked at the development of WSE as a postdoc researcher at the University of Groningen. In 2007, she joined Allnex Netherlands B.V. (formerly Nuplex Resins B. V.) as a Senior Materials Specialist at the Nuplex Innovation Center in Wageningen, where she was mainly involved in structure-properties-performances studies on coating and composite resins and in the development of resins for functional coatings. Currently, she is working as a senior chemist at the development and study of application properties of resins for performance coatings.

, Juul Cuijpers

Juul Cuijpers, currently Innovation Program Director at Royal DSM N.V., holds a master’s degree in chemical engineering and chemistry from the Eindhoven University of Technology (the Netherlands). He has completed research studies in the fields of polymer technology and chemistry with specifics to structure property relationships. As a postgraduation fellow at the Dutch Polymer Institute, he worked on a novel project for the development and study of WSE, which was a coproject of the Eindhoven University of Technology and the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Today, at Royal DSM N.V., Juul’s research is mainly focused on disruptive innovations in the field of low-temperature powder coating technologies opening new fields of applications for heat sensitive substrates like natural wood, plastics and other engineered materials.

, Patrizio Raffa

Patrizio Raffa obtained his master’s degree in Organic Chemistry at the University of Pisa and Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa (Italy) in 2004 cum laude with a thesis on organosilicon compounds. He completed his PhD in chemistry at Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa cum laude in 2009, working on transition metal nanoparticles. After postdoctoral experiences in Lyon, Pisa, and Groningen, he was appointed assistant professor at the University of Groningen in 2017. His current research includes industrial applications of amphiphilic polymers, rubbers, smart materials, and bio-based polymers.

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, Antonius A. Broekhuis

Antonius A. Broekhuis obtained his PhD degree from the Radboud University in Nijmegen in 1979. From 1979 to 2003, he held different research and management appointments in Shell Chemicals in Amsterdam, Houston, and London. His work encompassed basic and applied research directed at process and product innovation and at new product development. In 2003, he joined the University of Groningen to shape and develop the new chair dedicated to “Chemical Product Design and Engineering” (CPD&E) within the chemical engineering program. From 2004 to 2011, he was chairman of the Section of the European Federation of Chemical Engineers on CPD&E. He retired in 2016.

, Martin van Duin

Martin van Duin’s main interest in structure-reactivity-performance relationships connects his PhD study on “Borate esters: identification, structure, stability and cation coordinating ability” (TU Delft; 1987) with his work as research fellow at DSM Research (1986–2008) and his position as principle scientist at ARLANXEO (the global leader for synthetic rubbers) and part-time professor on Rubber Products at the University of Groningen.

and Francesco Picchioni

Francesco Picchioni was born in Terni, Italy, in 1971. He studied chemistry at the University of Pisa, received his MSc degree in 1996 in the field of polymer chemistry, started PhD research on thermoplastic, and received his degree in 2000. After a postdoc (2000–2003) at the TU Eindhoven, he joined the University of Groningen. Since November 2013, he has been a professor of Chemical Product Technology at the University of Groningen.

Abstract

Water-swellable elastomers (WSE) constitute a class of rubbery materials that have been widely studied both in academia and industry during the last 25 years. Market pull is the major driver for the exploration of these materials. The need of WSE in several sealing applications has driven the attention of many academic researchers toward the possibility to provide a rubber with water-swelling characteristics. As commercial rubbers are hydrophobic materials, making them swell in water presents an interesting and difficult challenge. This paper reviews the scientific and patent literature on the fundamental aspects of WSE: the various synthetic approaches, the properties of the corresponding polymers (not only the swelling performance but also the mechanical behavior), and some of their applications. Particular attention is paid to the chemical structure/performance relationships of WSE. Finally, the authors speculate on a great future for WSE that can be rationally designed for improved and/or new applications.

About the authors

Lorenzo M. Polgar

Lorenzo M. Polgar passed both of his bachelor studies and his master’s in chemistry and chemical engineering at the University of Groningen with cum laude and received the “spinoza encouragement award” and the “GUF-100 prize for excellent students.” During his master’s studies, he specialized in polymeric products and performed a project on EOR, resulting in two publications. His PhD research on recyclable rubbers was also awarded cum laude and received a lot of attention from the media.

Francesca Fallani

Francesca Fallani received her PhD from the University of Pisa in 2004, with research on the (photo)-chemical modification of polyolefins. From 2004 to 2006, she worked at the development of WSE as a postdoc researcher at the University of Groningen. In 2007, she joined Allnex Netherlands B.V. (formerly Nuplex Resins B. V.) as a Senior Materials Specialist at the Nuplex Innovation Center in Wageningen, where she was mainly involved in structure-properties-performances studies on coating and composite resins and in the development of resins for functional coatings. Currently, she is working as a senior chemist at the development and study of application properties of resins for performance coatings.

Juul Cuijpers

Juul Cuijpers, currently Innovation Program Director at Royal DSM N.V., holds a master’s degree in chemical engineering and chemistry from the Eindhoven University of Technology (the Netherlands). He has completed research studies in the fields of polymer technology and chemistry with specifics to structure property relationships. As a postgraduation fellow at the Dutch Polymer Institute, he worked on a novel project for the development and study of WSE, which was a coproject of the Eindhoven University of Technology and the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Today, at Royal DSM N.V., Juul’s research is mainly focused on disruptive innovations in the field of low-temperature powder coating technologies opening new fields of applications for heat sensitive substrates like natural wood, plastics and other engineered materials.

Patrizio Raffa

Patrizio Raffa obtained his master’s degree in Organic Chemistry at the University of Pisa and Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa (Italy) in 2004 cum laude with a thesis on organosilicon compounds. He completed his PhD in chemistry at Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa cum laude in 2009, working on transition metal nanoparticles. After postdoctoral experiences in Lyon, Pisa, and Groningen, he was appointed assistant professor at the University of Groningen in 2017. His current research includes industrial applications of amphiphilic polymers, rubbers, smart materials, and bio-based polymers.

Antonius A. Broekhuis

Antonius A. Broekhuis obtained his PhD degree from the Radboud University in Nijmegen in 1979. From 1979 to 2003, he held different research and management appointments in Shell Chemicals in Amsterdam, Houston, and London. His work encompassed basic and applied research directed at process and product innovation and at new product development. In 2003, he joined the University of Groningen to shape and develop the new chair dedicated to “Chemical Product Design and Engineering” (CPD&E) within the chemical engineering program. From 2004 to 2011, he was chairman of the Section of the European Federation of Chemical Engineers on CPD&E. He retired in 2016.

Martin van Duin

Martin van Duin’s main interest in structure-reactivity-performance relationships connects his PhD study on “Borate esters: identification, structure, stability and cation coordinating ability” (TU Delft; 1987) with his work as research fellow at DSM Research (1986–2008) and his position as principle scientist at ARLANXEO (the global leader for synthetic rubbers) and part-time professor on Rubber Products at the University of Groningen.

Francesco Picchioni

Francesco Picchioni was born in Terni, Italy, in 1971. He studied chemistry at the University of Pisa, received his MSc degree in 1996 in the field of polymer chemistry, started PhD research on thermoplastic, and received his degree in 2000. After a postdoc (2000–2003) at the TU Eindhoven, he joined the University of Groningen. Since November 2013, he has been a professor of Chemical Product Technology at the University of Groningen.

Acknowledgments

Shell Amsterdam is acknowledged for the financial support to the present project. Karin Lewis and Emma Szoboszlai are kindly acknowledged for proofreading this work as native English speakers.

  1. Conflict of interest statement: The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest regarding this paper.

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Received: 2017-06-28
Accepted: 2017-09-26
Published Online: 2017-12-18
Published in Print: 2018-12-19

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