Correlation of Arrhenius parameters for UHMWPE synthesis with ethylene solubility characteristics in different polymerization media



The effect of different polymerization media like n-hexane, cyclohexane, isooctane, n-decane, toluene, varsol, and light normal paraffin (LNP) on the kinetics of the slurry polymerization of ethylene using a highly active Ziegler Natta (ZN) catalyst for synthesizing UHMWPE was studied. Attempts have been made to determine the solubility of ethylene in the above polymerization media in a very basic manner and to correlate same with the process activation energy based on the Arrhenius plots. The ethylene solubility seemed to depend on the number of carbon atoms in the media, besides other parameters like geometry, dipole moment, etc. It is obvious and well understood that the monomer (ethylene) concentration has a direct bearing on the polymerization kinetics, which influenced the activation energy (Ea) besides other parameters like catalyst/cocatalyst concentration, temperature, etc which were kept constant during the study. The role of the catalyst system in controlling the activation energy was also further exemplified by employing a different ZN catalyst system wherein higher activation energy was observed. This was ascribed to restricted activation pathways for the catalyst under the comparable experimental conditions employed. As soon as better activation pathways for the catalyst were enabled the activation energy dropped down remarkably. The Ea for the synthesis of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) using traditional MgCl2 supported Ti catalyst was found to be 5–12 kcal/mol which compared well with the values obtained by other researchers using other similar catalyst systems for different ethylene polymerization processes. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci, 2011