Microwave irradiation versus conventional heating assisted free-radical copolymerization in solution

Perez-Martinez, Bertha T.; Aboudzadeh, Mohammed Ali; Schubert, Ulrich S.; Leiza, Jose Ramon; Tomovska, Radmila
Microwave (MW) irradiation has arisen as a more sustainable alternative to conventional heating (CH) for chemical reactions because it provides non-contact, volumetric equal and fast heating. However, in free-radical polymerization, the MW effect is still quite controversial, probably due to the lack of reliable, comparable experimental data of both CH and MW assisted polymerization processes. In this work, taking advantage of technically superior MW reactor design, similar temperature profiles and conditions of CH and MW assisted polymerization reactions were enabled. Copolymerization of various monomer couples with different polarity and dielectric properties was studied in solution of different organic solvents in the presence of different initiators. As a result, it was concluded that the interaction of the reaction components with the MW irradiation is essential and will determine if any effect of MW irradiation on the reaction and products occurs. On the contrary to some reported studies, for the typical monomers used in free radical polymerization studied here (acrylates, methacrylates, styrene) no difference in reaction rates, copolymer composition and properties were observed between the MWH and CH processes, independently of the solvent and initiator used. However, in the case of the presence of an organometallic monomer within the monomer couple, an observable reaction rate enhancement was obtained under MW irradiation, along with changes in the reactivity ratios and differences in the copolymer composition. This effect is considered a specific microwave effect, for the first time demonstrated in free-radical solution polymerization process and was explained by the principles of selective heating of the organometallic reaction components in solution.
Type of Publication:
Chemical Engineering Journal