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Emulsion & Suspension Polymerization

Technical Report · October 2018

DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.24297.95846

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Abdal-Rhman Magdy Abdullah Youssef

Higher Technological Institute


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Higher Technological Institute -10Th of Ramadan City
Chemical Engineering Department


Student: AbdAl-Rhman Magdy Abdullah Youssef ID: 20160517
Dr. Maher Gamal
September 2018

Emulsion and suspension polymerization are two methods of heterogeneous polymerization
methods. Emulsion Polymerization developed during World War II using reactors made of
stainless steel or glass lined, emulsion has many advantages like Easy heat control also some
disadvantages like; rabid agitation, system of emulsion consists of some ingredients which are;
monomer(s), dispersing medium, emulsifying agent, water-soluble initiator, and, possibly, a
transfer agent.
Suspension Polymerization is a widely used method in the manufacture using stainless steel
reactors, and as emulsion it has advantages and disadvantages, suspension system is similar to
emulsion but differ in suspension agent and type of iniator.
Emulsion differ from suspension in type of iniator and size of particles.

Emulsion polymerization

I. Historical Background II. Emulsion Reactors

Emulsion polymerization was developed Reactors for the emulsion polymerization
in the U.S. during World War II for the process vary in size from 1000 to 4000
manufacture of GR-S rubber gal depending upon production
(Government-Rubber-Styrene) or SBR requirements. Reactors may be glass
(styrene–butadiene rubber) when the lined or made of stainless steel. Glass-
Japanese cut off the supply of rubber from lined reactors are preferred for the
the East. Emulsion polymerization is now production of acrylic polymer emulsions,
widely used commercially for the while stainless steel is usually preferred
production of a large variety of polymers. for the manufacture of poly (vinyl
[1] acetate) because it can be cleaned easily
with a boiling solution of dilute caustic.

III. Advantages and Dis
Emulsion polymerization has many
advantages like; Easy heat control, Easy
agitation, latex may be directly usable,
highly polymerization rates possible,
molecular weight control possible,
usable, small-particle size possible,
usable in producing tacky, soft, and solid
product. Figure (1): Flow sheet of typical emulsion polymerization plant. [5]

Although all these advantages there are

some disadvantages like; Polymer may
require additional cleanup and
purification; difficult to eliminate
entrenched coagulants, emulsifiers,
surfactants, etc., often requires rapid
agitation. [3]
IV. Emulsion System
The emulsion polymerization system
would consist of the following
ingredients: monomer(s), dispersing
medium, emulsifying agent, water-
soluble initiator, and, possibly, a transfer
agent. Water serves as the dispersing
medium in which the various components
are suspended by the emulsifying agent.
The water also acts as a heat transfer
medium. Monomers such as styrene,
acrylates, methacrylates, vinyl chloride,
butadiene, and chloroprene used in
emulsion polymerization show only a
slight solubility in water. [4] Figure (2): Representation of stages of an ideal emulsion
polymerization. (–O) An emulsifier molecule; (M), a monomer
molecule; (P) a polymer molecule; and (R·) a free radical. (a) Prior to
initiation; (b) polymerization stage 1; shortly after initiation; (c)
polymerization stage 2; all emulsifier micelles consumed; (d)
polymerization stage 3; monomer droplets disappear; and (e) end
polymerization. [6]

Suspension Polymerization

I. Introduction III. Advantages and Dis

Suspension polymerization is the most Advantages
widely used process for making plastic Suspension polymerization is Easy
resins both in terms of the number of agitation which give higher purity
polymer products and in tonnage product when compared to emulsion, but
production. although easy of agitation, there is a
Practically all of the common difficult in controlling particle size. [9]
thermoplastic resins, including some of IV. Suspension System
the newer polymers, are made by this
method. Styrene, methyl methacrylate, Suspension system consist of the
vinyl chloride, vinylidene chloride, vinyl following ingredients;
acetate, the fluorocarbons, and some monomers, agitated stabilizing medium
gaseous monomers, including ethylene, usually consisting of water, small amount
propylene and formaldehyde, may be of suspension agent (0.01 to 0.50%
polymerized by the suspension weight of monomer) which is vital to the
polymerization process. [7] successful control of the polymerization
II. Suspension Reactors process and the uniformity of the product
obtained, iniator are mainly of the
Suspension polymerization reactors are peroxide type and, in some cases, are azo
generally vertical, agitated (or stirred and ionic compounds. [10]
tank) vessels usually made of stainless
steel or glass-lined carbon steel. Reactors V. Suspension Mechanism
are provided with agitators with a paddle In suspension polymerization the heat
or anchor-type stirrer of speed in the removal is facilitated by keeping the
range 20 to 60 rpm, with baffles in some dimension of the reaction mass small.
cases to enhance dispersion. The most This is carried out by suspending the
important design for the suspension monomer in the form of droplets in an
polymerization reactor is the temperature inert, non-solvent liquid (almost always
control, which must ensure a close degree water). In this way each droplet becomes
of accuracy. Reactors must therefore be a single bulk reactor, but with dimensions
capable of removing the heat of small enough so that heat removal is not
polymerization, which may be quite a problem. [11]
appreciable. [8]

Figure (3): Flow sheet for the suspension polymerization of methyl methacrylate [12]

Difference between Suspension and Emulsion

Emulsion polymerization differs from suspension polymerization in two important
respects: the initiator is located in the aqueous phase, and the polymer particles
produced are typically of the order of 0.1 m in diameter, some 10 times smaller than
the smallest encountered in suspension polymerization. Emulsion systems allow
higher-molecular-weight polymers to be produced at higher rates than do bulk or
suspension systems. [13]
[1], [2], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [10], [12] [11], [13] Charles A. Harper, Edward M.
Robert O. Ebewele, " Polymer Science Petrie, "PLASTICS MATERIALSAND
PROCESSES A Concise Encyclopedia,”
and Technology", CRC Press LLC, 2000,
Ch.10, section C, 1 and 2.
PUBLICATION, 2003, Page 438.
[3], [9] Charles E. Carraher, Jr., "Polymer
Chemistry,” 6Th Edition, MARCEL
DEKKER, INC., 2003, Ch.8.

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