Polyisobutenes have numerous industrial applications, e.g. as rubbers, sealants, lubricants and oil additives. For the latter two applications, being the largest end-use markets, polyisobutenes are prduced on a several 100.000 t scale per year. Polyisobutenes applied in mineral oil applications are of low molecular weight. They are industrially produced at temperatures below 0°C, usually with very active but simple inorganic Lewis acid initiators.
At the beginning of the project, a new type of catalysts had been developed at TUM (Lst. für Anorganische Chemie), that allow the production of highly reactive polyisobutene at ambient temper-ature and in non-chlorinated solvents, e.g. toluene. This highly efficient and environmentally friendly method is a promising alternative to the traditional industrial process which has enjoyed considerable longevity since 1938. The tasks of this project are, first, modification and optimization of catalysts system; second, the detection of the underlying chemical reaction mechanisms; last but not least, transfer of the new method developed on the laboratory scale to the scale of a production reactor, which can be applied industrially. Under the joint forces of the groups of Prof. Kühn (Molecular Catal-ysis, TUM), Prof. Bungartz (Scientific Computing, TUM) and Dr. Mühlbach (Solution Polymers, BASF SE), the research topics mentioned above have been extensively investigated and fruitful results are obtained with both academia and industrial importance.
In the molecular catalysis group, more cost efficient and environmentally friendly synthetic methods for existing catalysts, as well as new types of catalysts have been developed. The catalytic activities of the compounds were tested both in university and in industry (BASF SE). In order to be applied industrially, the homogenous catalysts have also been immobilized onto different carrier materials. The computer science group has implemented new tools for turbulent flow simulations as a basis for fast mixing processes that substantially influence the number of reactions observed in a reactor. In addition, the flow solver has been enhanced by a module for the simulation of heat transport. As soon as suitable reactor geometries, flow parameters and chemical reactions terms are available, this software can be used to optimize the reactor prototyping and optimization for the new production methos developed in the group of Prof. Kühn