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Supercritical Continuous Precipitation Polymerization of Acrylic Acid in a Droplet-Based Millifluidic Device

par Mignard Emmanuel - publié le

In this work, a high pressure droplet-based millifluidic device was developed to achieve the continuous precipitation polymerization of acrylic acid in a green reaction medium : a supercritical mixture of 10 wt% ethanol in CO2 (15/19.5 MPa and 75 °C). To avoid clogging the tubular reactor of 762 µm ID, a segmented flow of an aqueous solution of monomer dispersed in the supercritical mixture (containing the initiator) was generated. During the reaction, the droplets were used as reservoirs which enable the continuous transfer of the monomer to the CO2-rich phase. This work shows that a large range of molar masses of poly(acrylic acid) (from 20 000 to 120 000 g.mol-1) with low polydispersity index (from 1.35 to 1.70) can be obtained. Due to the rapid transfer of the monomer compared to its conversion and the resulting low monomer concentration in the reactive medium, the molar mass distributions are not dependent on the residence time but rather on the initial monomer and initiator concentrations only. Hence in the investigated experimental conditions, the continuous reactive extraction process helps to achieve the precipitation polymerization without clogging the tubular reactor and in mastering the molar mass distribution. The effect of pressure influencing the molar mass distribution of poly(acrylic acid) as well as the competition between two possible loci of polymerization are also discussed.

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