April 16, 2024

New Method Developed to Produce Large and Uniform Polymer Particle Sizes

A team of French researchers has successfully developed a method to produce stable polystyrene dispersions with exceptionally large and uniform particle sizes. The method, reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie, could have significant applications in various industries including coatings technology, medical imaging, and cell biology.

Polystyrene is a widely-used material for creating expanded foam. It is also well-suited for the production of latexes, in which tiny polystyrene particles are suspended. Latexes find applications in the manufacturing of coatings and paints, as well as in microscopy calibration, medical imaging, and cell biology research. Traditionally, latexes are produced by thermally or redox-induced polymerization within the solution.

To gain better control over the process and achieve uniform particle sizes, the team of researchers from the Université Lyon 1, France, led by Muriel Lansalot, Emmanuel Lacôte, and Elodie Bourgeat-Lami, turned to light-driven processes. By utilizing light-driven polymerization, the researchers were able to exercise temporal control over the process, as polymerization only occurs in the presence of light. In contrast, thermal methods cannot be stopped once initiated.

While UV- or blue-light-based photopolymerization systems have been developed, they have limitations. When the particle size becomes similar to the radiation wavelength, short-wavelength radiation scatters, making it challenging to produce latexes with particle sizes larger than the incoming wavelengths. Additionally, UV light is highly energy-intensive and poses risks to human health.

To overcome these limitations, the researchers devised a chemical initiation system that responds to standard LED light in the visible range. This system, based on an acridine dye, stabilizers, and a borane compound, became the first to surpass the 300-nanometer ceiling, which previously limited UV and blue-light-driven polymerization in dispersed mediums. As a result, the research team was able to utilize light to produce polystyrene latexes with particle sizes greater than one micrometer, all with highly uniform diameters.

The potential applications of this method extend beyond polystyrene. According to Lacôte, the system could be used in various industries where latexes are employed, including films, coatings, and supports for diagnostics. Furthermore, the polymer particles can be modified with fluorescent dyes, magnetic clusters, or other functionalities useful for diagnostic and imaging applications. By adjusting the initial conditions, a wide range of particle sizes spanning the nano and micro scales can be achieved.

In conclusion, the French research team has made a significant breakthrough in the production of stable polystyrene dispersions with large and uniform particle sizes. The method has the potential to revolutionize various industries, offering improved capabilities in coatings technology, medical imaging, and cell biology research. Additionally, the ability to modify polymer particles opens up new possibilities for diagnostic and imaging applications.


  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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