Food-Grade, High-Conductivity Antistatic Agent for Polymerization Process

$15,000 USD
Challenge closed

Challenge overview

OVERVIEW

Antistatic agents are commonly used as processing aids in olefin polymerization processes. Their role is two-fold. First, they help dissipate electrostatic charges, which, if left uncontained, may lead to fouling of the process equipment. Second, antistatic agents help terminate undesirable polymerization reactions.

Unfortunately, the most popular antistatic agents are deemed toxic, which disfavors using the manufactured polyolefins in certain food, beverage, and medical packaging applications. 

This Challenge is therefore looking for commercially available compounds that would be non-toxic — and, ideally, food-grade — while retaining all antistatic properties of currently used agents.

By taking part in this Prize Challenge, you are granting the Seeker a right to use your submitted information; however, the Seeker must determine award winners within 45 days from the start of evaluation, otherwise they lose this right.

This Prize Challenge requires a written proposal to be submitted. There will be a guaranteed award pool of $15,000, with at least one award of $5,000 or larger and no award being smaller than $2,500. Award distribution (or allocation) will be contingent upon the theoretical evaluation of the proposals. 

In this Prize Challenge, Solvers may:

  • Submit ideas of their own.
  • Submit third-party information that they have the right to use and further, the authority to convey to the Seeker this right with the right to use and develop derivative works.
  • Submit information considered in the public domain without any limitations on use.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on XYZ, 2024.

- Login and register your interest to view the confidential information in relation to this challenge and to start solving!

 

THE CHALLENGE

The objective of this Challenge is to find a non-toxic — and, ideally, food-grade — substitute for Atmer 163, a common antistatic agent used in propylene polymerization processes.

The process of olefin polymerization proceeds in two steps. At the first, a homopolymer production step, bulk polymerization of propylene in loop reactors takes place resulting in the formation of solid, semi-crystalline polypropylene; it is then removed by gas-solid separation. During the second step, polypropylene is routed to a gas-phase reactor where it is further polymerized with propylene and ethylene, resulting in the formation of a heterophasic copolymer.  

Atmer 163 is added to the reaction process between homopolymer and heterophasic production steps. Its role is two-fold. First, it helps dissipate electrostatic charges that form during the second reaction step. If not contained, these charges can lead to wall fouling of the gas-phase reactor. This can also lead to the formation of polymer agglomerates, which then need to be removed from the reactor resulting in costly shutdowns.

Second, in addition to its ability to dissipate electric charge, Atmer 163 reacts with the polymerization catalyst, a Ziegler-Natta catalyst, on the surface of the copolymer granules and terminates the surface polymerization reaction (while not reacting with the catalyst in the interior of the polymer granules). This too helps mitigate reactor fouling and polymer agglomeration.

Unfortunately, Atmer 163 is a deemed toxic substance in some countries, which disfavors using the manufactured polyolefins in certain food, beverage, and medical packaging applications in those regions.   

Once added, removing Atmer 163 from the final polymer product is difficult and would be prohibitively expensive at the industrial level. It is therefore important to identify a commercially available compound that would be non-toxic — and, ideally, food-grade — while retaining all antistatic properties of Atmer 163.

SOLUTION REQUIREMENTS

To serve as an effective substitute to Atmer 163, the proposed compound should meet the following Solution Requirements:

  1. It should have a conductivity profile and electric field discharge capacity similar to Atmer 163: 10-3-10-2 S/cm and 10-4-10-3 J/cm3, respectively.
  2. It should have the same or similar viscosity profile as Atmer 163 (120 MPa-s at 25oC to 50 MPa-s at 40oC). That is, it should flow through existing pumping equipment without having to mechanically alter the pumping equipment.
  3. It should be able to react with the Ziegler-Natta catalyst in a manner similar to Atmer 163, that is, be capable of deactivating the polymerization catalyst system at the surface of heterophasic copolymer granules.
  4. It should be a commercially available product (or be obviously commercially scalable) in the range of 100-300 tons per year. The target price, on a commercial scale, is less than $10/kg.

Very important: The proposed compound must be non-toxic, and the Solvers are expected to provide solid evidence of its non-toxic nature as measured in conventional toxicology tests or as manifested by its use in applications that require the compound being non-toxic.

Ideally, the proposed compound should be listed either on the FDA’s Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list or on European Food Safety Authority’s Qualified Presumption of Safety (QPS) list — and, better yet, on both lists.

Also important: There were reports (e.g., Mazzucco et al. (2019)) that a water solution of low viscosity poly ethers (or poly glycol and poly alcohols) could serve as an effective and safe antistatic agent. The Seeker is aware of these reports and won’t accept water-based solutions for this Challenge.

Solutions with Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) 6-9 are invited.

This Prize Challenge has the following features:

1. By taking part in this Prize Challenge, you are granting the Seeker a right to use your submitted information; however, the Seeker must determine the award winners within 45 days from the start of evaluation, otherwise the Seeker loses this right. You will receive notification.

2. There will be a guaranteed award of $15,000, with at least one award being no smaller than $5,000 and no award being smaller than $2,500.

3. The award distribution will be determined after theoretical evaluation of the proposals by the Seeker.

4. Solvers may:

  • Submit ideas of their own.
  • Submit third-party information that they have the right to use and further, the authority to convey to the Seeker this right with the right to use and develop derivative works.

5. The Seeker may also issue “Honourable Mention” recognitions for notable submissions that are not selected for monetary awards.

6. The Seeker may wish to partner with the Solver at the conclusion of the Challenge. Please indicate your interest in partnering.

YOUR SUBMISSION

Please login and register your interest, to complete the submission form.

The submitted proposals must be written in English, and in your submission form response and attachments, you should include:

  1. Participation type – you will first be asked to inform us how you are participating in this challenge, as a Solver (Individual), Solver (Organization) or WIN Scout – (submission uses an alternative form).
  2. Solution Stage - the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of your solution, TRL1-3 ideation, TRL4-6 proof of concept, TRL7-9 production ready.
  3. Partnering - there may be an opportunity to partner at the conclusion of this Challenge. Please indicate if partnering is of interest to you.
  4. Problem & Opportunity - highlight the innovation in your approach to the Problem, its point of difference, and the specific advantages/benefits this brings (up to 500 words).
  5. Solution Overview - detail the features of your solution and how they address the Solution Requirements (500 words, there is space to add more in the summary field below, and to add any appropriate supporting data, diagrams, etc.).
  6. Experience - Expertise, use cases and skills you or your organization have in relation to your proposed solution (up to 500 words).
  7. Solution Risks - any risks you see with your solution and how you would plan for this (up to 500 words).
  8. Timeline, capability and costs - describe what you think is required to deliver the solution, estimated time and cost (up to 500 words).
  9. Online References - provide links to any publications, articles or press releases of relevance (up to 500 words).

Wazoku encourages the use by Solvers of AI approaches to help develop their submissions, though any produced solely with generative AI are not of interest.

Find out more about participation in Wazoku Crowd Challenges.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on XYZ, 2024.

Late submissions will not be considered.

Your submission will be evaluated by the evaluation team first reviewing the information and content you have submitted on the submission form, with attachments used as additional context to your form submission. Submissions relying solely on attachments will receive less attention from the evaluation team.

After the Challenge submission due date, the Seeker will complete the review process and make a decision with regards to the winning solution(s) according to the timeline in the Challenge header. All Solvers who submit a proposal will be notified about the status of their submissions.

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