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Benefits of QPAC® Poly(alkylene Carbonate) Copolymer Binders for Glass Sealing Paste Applications

In this ‘Insight from Industry,’ Nick Gilbert from AZoM.com talks to Peter Ferraro, Director of Business Development at Empower Materials, about the benefits of QPAC® Poly(alkylene Carbonate) Copolymer Binders for Glass Sealing Paste Applications.

Empower Materials is at the forefront of the development of cleaner, more environmentally friendly binders. Can you tell us more about the QPAC® range and the main benefits of CO2-based polymers for binding and sealing applications?
Empower Materials manufactures a family of Polyalkylene carbonates. Our main product is QPAC® 40 Polypropylene Carbonate. This material is manufactured with a range of molecular weights ranging from as low as 50,000 to 350,000 +. Our new catalyst technology developed over the last several years has allowed us to make higher molecular weight QPAC® 40 which has opened up new binder opportunities.

We also make QPAC® 25 Polyethylene Carbonate with a molecular weight range from 100,000 to 230,000+. Again our new catalyst technology has allowed us to make this product with a higher molecular weight. We are also able for the first time to commercially offer both QPAC®100 Polypropylene/Polycyclohexene Carbonate and QPAC® 130 Polycyclohexene Carbonate.

The main benefit of this family of polymers is the ability to completely decompose the binders at low temperatures, lower than most any other binder in the marketplace in not only air but in non-oxidizing environments. Additionally, after debind there is very little residual contaminants remaining after the binder is decomposed.

These two qualities are highly important to our customers who are working with sensitive materials in high-tech applications. At the same time, the adhesion and green strength of the polyalkylene carbonates are excellent. Therefore mechanical and sealing properties can be improved along with the benefits of an improved binder decomposition process.

What makes the QPAC Poly(Alkylene Carbonate) systems greener?
QPAC® Polyalkylene Carbonates are synthesized from carbon dioxide and require approximately 50% less petrochemicals than traditional petroleum-based polymers. They also exhibit some biodegradable properties. Both of these features make QPAC® a green material,

QPAC® Poly(Alkylene Carbonate) copolymer binding systems are used for a number of different applications. Can you tell us a little bit more about the vast range of industries that use the empower range?
Yes, QPAC® Polyalkylene Carbonates binders / sacrificial materials are used in a wide range of industries. This includes binder applications in dielectric tapes and pressed parts in passive electronic components, conductive pastes for electronic, solar, and other applications, brazing binder in flux pastes, and as sacrificial channel formers for MEMS and other electronic components. One of the most promising areas of growth using the binder is in glass systems such as thick films, sealing pastes, and glass preforms. Applications include glass packaging, displays, LEDs, OLEDs, and hermetic glass gaskets.

Glass sealing pastes require some specific properties, how do the Empower QPAC Poly(Alkylene Carbonate) copolymer binding systems meet these requirements?
As in the name, glass sealing pastes need to create a good seal. Therefore the paste should be dense with few voids and have good adhesion. Additionally, any contamination in the seal after the glass is sintered will negatively affect the seal and create the opportunity for leaks. The decomposition properties of QPAC® 40 Polypropylene Carbonate results in a higher density seal with few voids. The binder also has very high adhesion properties with glass frit.

Glass sealing pastes also require unique rheology. QPAC® 40 Polypropylene Carbonate is shear thinning which is an important feature for dispensing/ printing glass pastes. Additionally, the polymer can be modified to offer a range of viscosities.

In particular, the system offers complete decomposition at low temperatures, why is this so important?
Many glass sealing applications require a low-temperature melt glass powder or frit. Advancements are continually being made to lower the melt temperature of the glass by the glass frit manufacturers. A lower binder decomposition temperature is required for these types of glass powders. The binder must be decomposed before the glass starts to melt. Otherwise, the binder and its gases will get trapped within the glass structure. This will result in voids, and hence lower density.

QPAC®40 Polypropylene Carbonate can be fully decomposed before the glass melts. This has been proven in several glass sealing paste applications where other binders could not work because of their high decomposition temperature.

Leaving behind low residuals and ash content after decomposition are also benefits, how does the QPAC solution ensure minimal residuals?
Trapped contaminants such as ash and carbon that are left behind after the binder decomposes also create problems with sealing of the substrates. A compromised seal caused by contaminants will negatively affect the reliability of the final product. Since QPAC® does not leave behind carbon or other contaminants, this eliminates the problem of having particulates left behind to adversely affect the seal.

Other binders such as ethyl cellulose inherently contain higher amounts of ash and carbon. These levels of contaminants are further amplified because the glass melts before the binder can fully decompose.

QPAC system offers a more environmentally friendly manufacturing environment. Can you tell us a little bit more about how this can benefit your customers?
QPAC Polyalkylene Carbonates decompose to water and carbon dioxide. Therefore venting of toxic byproducts from the decomposition process is not needed. Other binders result in harmful fumes and soot that cause environmental and equipment issues. Since the byproducts are clean, the furnaces stay cleaner and require less downtime for maintenance. Additionally the work environment is improved.

What’s next for Empower Materials? What can we expect to see in the future?
Empower Materials continues to expand the range of different types of Polyalkylene Carbonates. This is mostly driven by the need placed on us by our customers. We are also working with our customers in different applications such as glass sealing pastes, to help optimize their formulations for maximum performance. Interest in our products continues to grow as the need increases for cleaner binders that decompose at lower temperatures. QPAC® Polyalkylene Carbonates addresses these needs.

Biodegradable Organic Binders – Low Temperature Glass Paste

Empower Materials Inc. is the producer of QPAC®, the world’s cleanest thermally decomposable organic binder. QPAC® cleanly decomposes into CO2 and water in many types of atmospheres and leaves virtually no residue. This property contributes to QPAC®‘s widespread usage in many demanding applications.

QPAC® poly(alkylene carbonate) copolymers are a unique family of innovative thermoplastics representing a true breakthrough in polymer technology. While traditional plastics have been primarily petroleum-based, these materials are derived from carbon dioxide and are produced through the copolymerization of CO2 with one or more epoxides. The resultant polymers are amorphous, clear, readily processible, and have long-term mechanical stability. They are also environmentally friendly by consuming 50% fewer petrochemicals, as compared to other polymers which are 100% petrochemical-based. In addition, they may exhibit biodegradable properties consistent with an environmentally friendly binder.

QPAC®25, polyethylene carbonate, and QPAC®40, polypropylene carbonate, are the two most widely used products within our family of binders. However, there is a wide range of QPAC® polymers possible by varying the epoxide monomer or using blends of epoxides to produce a specific reaction. Our technical group has the expertise to effectively work with you to develop the appropriate product for your application.

Production Capabilities of Empower Materials

Empower Materials is the world’s only commercial manufacturer of polyalkylene carbonates. Empower Materials can make large quantities (1000’s kgs) of QPAC®25, polyethylene carbonate, QPAC®40, polypropylene carbonate, and QPAC®100- a terpolymer of polypropylene carbonate and polycyclohexene carbonate.

Additionally, a wide range of other QPAC® polymers is possible via the substitution of oxiranes (epoxides) using the same production equipment configuration. In addition to QPAC®25, QPAC®40, and QPAC®100 (polypropylene carbonate, polyethylene carbonate, and polypropylene carbonate/polycyclohexene, respectively). The following have been successfully synthesized on pilot scale equipment:

QPAC®60 (poly-butylene-carbonate) and QPAC®130 (poly-cyclohexene carbonate)

Empower Materials also has the technology to modify the polymer’s molecular weight across a very broad range.

Biodegradable Plastics Polymers – QPAC Polyalkylene Carbonate Sacrificial Binders 

Empower Materials is a materials company making a family of high-performance, biodegradable plastics polymers used primarily as sacrificial binders. These sacrificial binders called QPAC® are used in many highly technical applications.

Applications of QPAC Polyalkylene Carbonate Organic Binders

Empower Materials makes a family of QPAC® polyalkylene carbonates that degrade completely and uniformly into environmentally benign products making it excellent for high-performance applications including low-temperature glass paste applications.

QPAC® Plastic Polymers in Low-Temperature Glass Paste Applications 

QPAC® polypropylene carbonate and polyethylene carbonate both decompose at temperatures significantly lower than other conventional binders. Additionally, the residual carbon level is significantly lower. Both these properties are highly beneficial in low-temperature glass paste applications. The QPAC sacrificial binder is added to a paste composition comprising a solvent and at least one low-temperature glass frit. The sacrificial binder provides a route for preparing a paste with excellent homogeneity, low debind and sintering temperature, low impurity levels, and customizable physical features.

Viscosity Properties of QPAC® Organic Binders

QPAC® also provides excellent viscosity properties to the paste formulation for deposition. These paste compositions for forming ceramic composites can be directly written or otherwise deposited by a miniaturized pen and subsequently processed into solid-state materials.

QPAC® Organic Binders in LED and OLED Applications 

Additionally, QPAC can be used as a sealing glass binder in low temperature sealing glass applications in which a low-temperature glass is used to seal two other glass substrates. One of the main applications for QPAC in this area is OLED and LED displays.

QPAC® 40 offers excellent performance as a binder in solar pastes

A great deal of effort has been afforded over the last 20 years improving photovoltaic (PV) efficiencies, reliability, and manufacturability. Much of this work has been focused on the front-side construction of PV, including metallization and contact formation with glasses. In general, the front-side contact pastes are silver pastes which are heterogeneous mixtures containing metallic silver powder or flakes, glass frit(s), organic binders, and other additives (solvents, plasticizers, dispersant/surfactants, inorganic additives, etc.). The role of the organic binder is critical in the formulation but is many times overlooked.

In this study, the clean-burning QPAC®40 polypropylene carbonate binder was used to formulate a front-side solar cell thick film paste sample. The paste characteristics were compared to commercially available pastes and found to exhibit nearly identical characteristics, such as solids loading, rheology, and fineness of grind. Thermal analysis of the paste sample compared to available commercial systems showed the QPAC®40 based paste to provide complete organic phase burn-out by 300°C in air, whereas the commercial systems exhibited a broad decomposition range and residual carbonaceous material presence as high as 630°C. The final cosmetic and microstructure features of the printed and fired structures on the front-side of solar cells were also compared. The QPAC®40 based paste showed higher retention of imparted geometry from the screen printing process through narrower and higher finger lines as well as better conductive architecture density through reduction of pore/void features as compared to the commercial paste samples A and B.

To read full report: Using Polyalkylene Carbonates (QPAC) as a Binder in Solar Pastes

Organic-Sacrificial Binders for Metallic Pastes

Empower Materials Inc. is the producer of QPAC®, the world’s cleanest thermally decomposable organic/sacrificial binders. QPAC® cleanly decomposes into CO2 and water in many types of atmospheres and leaves virtually no residue. This property contributes to QPAC®‘s widespread usage in many demanding applications.

QPAC® poly(alkylene carbonate) copolymers are a unique family of innovative thermoplastics representing a true breakthrough in polymer technology. While traditional plastics have been primarily petroleum-based, these materials are derived from carbon dioxide and are produced through the copolymerization of CO2 with one or more epoxides. The resultant polymers are amorphous, clear, readily processible, and have long-term mechanical stability. They are also environmentally friendly by consuming 50% fewer petrochemicals, as compared to other polymers which are 100% petrochemical-based. In addition, they may exhibit biodegradable properties consistent with an environmentally friendly binder.

QPAC®25, polyethylene carbonate, and QPAC®40, polypropylene carbonate, are the two most widely used products within our family of binders. However, there is a wide range of QPAC® polymers possible by varying the epoxide monomer or using blends of epoxides to produce a specific reaction. Our technical group has the expertise to effectively work with you to develop the appropriate product for your application.

Production Capabilities of Empower Materials

Empower Materials is the world’s only commercial manufacturer of polyalkylene carbonates. Empower Materials can make large quantities (1000’s kgs) of QPAC®25, polyethylene carbonate, QPAC®40, polypropylene carbonate, and QPAC®100- a terpolymer of polypropylene carbonate and polycyclohexene carbonate.

Additionally, a wide range of other QPAC® polymers is possible via the substitution of oxiranes (epoxides) using the same production equipment configuration. In addition to QPAC®25, QPAC®40, and QPAC®100 (polypropylene carbonate, polyethylene carbonate, and polypropylene carbonate/polycyclohexene, respectively). The following have been successfully synthesized on pilot scale equipment:

QPAC®60 (poly-butylene-carbonate) and QPAC®130 (poly-cyclohexene carbonate)

Empower Materials also has the technology to modify the polymer’s molecular weight across a very broad range.

Key Benefits of QPAC®40 Polypropylene Carbonate Organic Binders

Key Benefits of QPAC®40 polypropylene carbonate include:

  • Excellent adhesion and improved lubricity
  • Co-firing in any atmosphere without oxidation
  • Complete and clean burnout at low temperatures
  • Products of combustion are only carbon dioxide & water

Empower Materials is a materials company making a family of high-performance, biodegradable plastics polymers used primarily as sacrificial binders. These sacrificial binders called QPAC are used in many highly technical applications. Empower Materials makes a family of QPAC polyalkylene carbonates that degrade completely and uniformly into environmentally benign products making it excellent for high-performance applications including precise assembly of micro and nanoscale devices.

QPAC® Binder for Metallic Pastes

One new exciting application area for QPAC® is as an organic binder for metallic pastes. QPAC®40 polypropylene carbonate is currently being used as a binder in electrode pastes. Electrode pastes containing QPAC binder have significant benefits because of their low carbon residual levels which lead to reduced defect rates and other electrical quality issues.

Additional Applications of QPAC Organic Binders 

Additionally, QPAC® binder is used in terminal pastes and solar pastes. QPAC® has been successfully used as a binder in copper pastes, nickel pastes, silver pastes, and tungsten pastes for many electronic and solar applications.

Summary

Again, the QPAC® binder leads to both improved mechanical properties and efficiency of systems using QPAC® in their metallic paste formulations.

QPAC® performance in ultra low-temperature co-fired ceramics (ULTCC)

This paper reports the first ultra-low sintering temperature (450 °C) cofired multifunctional ceramic substrate based on a commercial lead zirconium titanate (PZ29)−glass composite, which is fabricated by tape casting, isostatic lamination, and sintering. This substrate was prepared from a novel tape casting slurry composition suitable for cofiring at low temperatures with commercial Ag electrodes at 450 °C. The green cast tape and sintered substrate showed a surface roughness of 146 and 355 nm, respectively, suitable for device-level fabrication by postprocessing. Additionally, the ferroelectric and piezoelectric studies disclosed low remnant polarization due to the dielectric glass matrix with average values of piezoelectric coefficient (+d33) and voltage coefficient (+g33) of 17 pC/N and 30 mV/N, respectively. The dielectric permittivity and loss value of the sintered substrates were 57.8 and 0.05 respectively, at 2.4 GHz. The variation of relative permittivity on temperature dependence in the range of −40 to 80 °C was about 23%, while the average linear coefficient of thermal expansion was 6.9 ppm/°C in the measured temperature range of 100−300 °C. Moreover, the shelf life of the tape over 28 months was studied through the measurement of the stability of the dielectric properties over time. The obtained results open up a new strategy for the fabrication of next-generation low-cost functional ceramic devices prepared at an ultralow temperature in comparison to the high-temperature cofired ceramic and low-temperature cofired ceramic technologies.

QPAC® 40 was used as a binder with a solvent and glass composite powder in a tape casting process.

Read the full article: Multilayer Functional Tapes Cofired at 450 °C: Beyond HTCC and LTCC Technologies

Carbonate Binders in Multilayer Piezoelectric Systems

Analysis has been done using QPAC40® Polypropylene carbonate as a clean-burning binder for base metal electrodes in NKN and PZT Piezoelectrics.

The experiment was conducted by the Center for Dielectric and Piezoelectrics, Material Research Institute at Pennsylvania State University.

Experiment

The QPAC40® allows a clean burnout at low temperature in N2 atmosphere. The QPAC40® allows the burnout to happen in a non-oxidizing environment at a low temperature.

The research at Penn State was conducted using the QPAC40® binder to create the tape. Traditionally, polyvinyl butyral, PVB has been used in both Ag/Pd and Ni co-fired multilayer actuators. This requires burnout to 400 °C. This temperature already surpasses the highest temperature of retaining the metallic state of both Cu and Ni.

To successfully prevent Ni and Cu form oxidation, clean burnout has to be accomplished at either in a low pO2 atmosphere or in a practically low temperature. With the conventional PVB system clean burnout cannot be attained. The high temperature needed for burnout and the high carbon residual levels caused poor results.

When the QPAC40® Polypropylene carbonate was used to create the tape, lower debind temperatures were possible and no detectable residue was left after burnout. The PVB system formed unwanted char while the QPAC®40 binder system developed propylene carbonate monomer which was vaporized without leaving any residual carbon.

Conclusion

This research article demonstrated that copper inner electrodes are extremely attracted as metal electrodes for co-firing with NKN. Further, the use of QPAC40® permits high densities and low dielectric loss multilayer piezoelectric structures.

This research complements other studies, which reveal that QPAC40® is an operative binder in tape casting. It results in a tape with superior green strength, as well as allows for the final sintered product to have excellent electrical properties because of the binder’s clean burnout properties.

Penn State University Research shows the benefits of QPAC® Polypropylene Carbonate as a binder in the Cold Sintering Process

The Cold Sintering process has been developed by Penn State University at the Material Research Institute. It allows for combining different material classes for a wide variety of applications. The lower temperature sintering process allows for the fabrication of inorganic compounds that could otherwise not be combined at high densities. This process has opened up many new opportunities in the electronic device industry, including multilayer electroceramic devices. Fabrication of multilayer devices involves both tape casting and screen printing of pastes. Both of these processes use binders for temporary strength. The binder for these applications needs to be clean burning. Additionally, for the cold sintering process, the binder needs to be removed at temperatures as low as 150℃ because of the lower sintering temperatures. QPAC® polyalkylene carbonate, specifically QPAC®40 Polypropylene carbonate, meets both the clean-burning and low-temperature requirements.

Penn State’s research shows that the QPAC®40 is an effective binder for the cold sintering process. It can be removed completely from the formed parts at temperatures low enough to avoid oxidation and/or not affect low-temperature stability materials such as polymers. The research conducted also showed that the QPAC®40 binder can be completely removed as low as 125°C. This enables the use of materials that offer unique properties of electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity, and heat capacity to name a few.

Polyalkylene Carbonate for 3D Printers/Additive Technology

Many research organizations have investigated the use of QPAC® polyalkylene carbonate in 3D printer applications. The distinctive decomposition properties which include contaminant-free burnout and low temperature of QPAC® can be applied to this technology. There are many varieties of Additive Manufacturing (AM) Technology.

Additive Manufacturing (AM) Technology

The QPAC® has a different function based on the AM technology. In Binder Jetting Technology such as Laser Sintering technology, the binder is placed onto a powder bed by inkjet head layer by layer. A laser is then applied to sinter the powder. If the final product is used in an application where contaminants cannot be accepted then the QPAC® is the ideal choice for a binder in this system.

The QPAC® is also being broadly assessed in another type of 3D printer technology, known as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). The filament of a thermoplastic is unwound through a coil and then extruded via a nozzle and then will solidify to make layers. The object is created by extruding molten plastic to form layers as the material hardens instantly after extrusion from the nozzles. Here, the QPAC® can be utilized as the thermoplastic. If the end part requires the polymer to be decomposed (such as a mold), then the QPAC® can be an ideal choice, again due to its decomposition properties.

AM Technology may use polymer, ceramic, metal or glass as the mass to construct the 3D shape. In many cases these powders are sensitive to high curing temperatures. Since the QPAC® can be removed at lower temperatures than other binders, the QPAC® binder is the ideal material for these applications.

Conclusion

Thus, there are many varieties of AM Technologies that are investigating the use of QPAC® as either a binder or a material in their printer systems. The QPAC® polymers being tested rely on the final application. On the whole, the QPAC®25 and QPAC® 40 tend to be more flexible and provide good adhesion strength when used. The QPAC®100 and QPAC®130 provide higher stiffness and rigidity when desirable. All offer the same advantages of low-temperature debind and clean burnout.

An Organic Binder for Nanoparticle Applications

Empower Materials Inc. is the producer of QPAC®, the world’s cleanest thermally decomposable organic/sacrificial binders. QPAC® cleanly decomposes into CO2 and water in many types of atmospheres and leaves virtually no residue. This property contributes to QPAC®‘s widespread usage in many demanding applications.

QPAC® poly(alkylene carbonate) copolymers are a unique family of innovative thermoplastics representing a true breakthrough in polymer technology. While traditional plastics have been primarily petroleum-based, these materials are derived from carbon dioxide and are produced through the copolymerization of CO2 with one or more epoxides. The resultant polymers are amorphous, clear, readily processible, and have long-term mechanical stability. They are also environmentally friendly by consuming 50% fewer petrochemicals, as compared to other polymers which are 100% petrochemical-based. In addition, they may exhibit biodegradable properties consistent with an environmentally friendly binder.

QPAC®25, polyethylene carbonate, and QPAC®40, polypropylene carbonate, are the two most widely used products within our family of binders. However, there is a wide range of QPAC® polymers possible by varying the epoxide monomer or using blends of epoxides to produce a specific reaction. Our technical group has the expertise to effectively work with you to develop the appropriate product for your application.

Production Capabilities of Empower Materials

Empower Materials is the world’s only commercial manufacturer of polyalkylene carbonates. Empower Materials can make large quantities (1000’s kgs) of QPAC®25, polyethylene carbonate, QPAC®40, polypropylene carbonate, and QPAC®100- a terpolymer of polypropylene carbonate and polycyclohexene carbonate.

Additionally, a wide range of other QPAC® polymers is possible via the substitution of oxiranes (epoxides) using the same production equipment configuration. In addition to QPAC®25, QPAC®40, and QPAC®100 (polypropylene carbonate, polyethylene carbonate, and polypropylene carbonate/polycyclohexene, respectively). The following have been successfully synthesized on pilot scale equipment:

QPAC®60 (poly-butylene-carbonate) and QPAC®130 (poly-cyclohexene carbonate)

Empower Materials also has the technology to modify the polymer’s molecular weight across a very broad range.

QPAC® Polymers as Nanoparticle Binders

Nanopowders and nanocomposites behave differently than traditional powders. Their unique properties also require unique additives and processing. QPAC®25 and QPAC®40 superior burnout characteristics, including low-temperature decomposition and exceptionally low residue levels, offer properties demanded by these nanoparticles.

QPAC®40 polypropylene carbonate and QPAC®25 polyethylene carbonate are used as a binder in several nano-related applications. QPAC® is used as a sacrificial material in MEMS applications. Other applications include bonding of nanopowders to silicon substrates including silicon wafers and in nanopowder coating applications.

Properties of QPAC® Polymers in Nanoparticle Binder Applications

The growing interest in QPAC® as an organic nanoparticle binder can be attributed to the following properties:

  • QPAC® is compatible with a variety of nanopowders including metals and ceramics.
  • Both QPAC®25 polyethylene carbonate and QPAC®40 polypropylene carbonate are naturally tacky and their degrees of plasticity can be adjusted as necessary.
  • Decomposition is complete through three phases; solid, liquid, and vapor.
  • Upon decomposition, QPAC® leaves very low ash residue with the complete burnout of carbon.
  • QPAC® decomposes completely between 200 to 300°C which can be as much as or more than 100°C below the decomposition temperature of other binders.
  • QPAC® binders are also unique in that they burn out mild, without violent gas formation. Thus, whether the process operates in an oxidizing, reducing, or inert atmosphere, there is less cracking in the part.

These properties result in structures with superior properties compared to structures prepared with more conventional binders. Additionally, QPAC®40 polypropylene carbonate and QPAC®25 polyethylene carbonate use up to 50% fewer petrochemicals than traditional plastics.

Organic Binders in Fuel Cell Fabrication

Empower Materials Inc. is the producer of QPAC®, the world’s cleanest thermally decomposable organic/sacrificial binders. QPAC® cleanly decomposes into CO2 and water in many types of atmospheres and leaves virtually no residue. This property contributes to QPAC®‘s widespread usage in many demanding applications.

QPAC® poly(alkylene carbonate) copolymers are a unique family of innovative thermoplastics representing a true breakthrough in polymer technology. While traditional plastics have been primarily petroleum-based, these materials are derived from carbon dioxide and are produced through the copolymerization of CO2 with one or more epoxides. The resultant polymers are amorphous, clear, readily processible, and have long-term mechanical stability. They are also environmentally friendly by consuming 50% fewer petrochemicals, as compared to other polymers which are 100% petrochemical-based. In addition, they may exhibit biodegradable properties consistent with an environmentally friendly binder.

QPAC®25, polyethylene carbonate, and QPAC®40, polypropylene carbonate, are the two most widely used products within our family of binders. However, there is a wide range of QPAC® polymers possible by varying the epoxide monomer or using blends of epoxides to produce a specific reaction. Our technical group has the expertise to effectively work with you to develop the appropriate product for your application.

Production Capabilities of Empower Materials

Empower Materials is the world’s only commercial manufacturer of polyalkylene carbonates. Empower Materials can make large quantities (1000’s kgs) of QPAC®25, polyethylene carbonate, QPAC®40, polypropylene carbonate, and QPAC®100- a terpolymer of polypropylene carbonate and polycyclohexene carbonate.

Additionally, a wide range of other QPAC® polymers is possible via the substitution of oxiranes (epoxides) using the same production equipment configuration. In addition to QPAC®25, QPAC®40, and QPAC®100 (polypropylene carbonate, polyethylene carbonate, and polypropylene carbonate/polycyclohexene, respectively). The following have been successfully synthesized on pilot scale equipment:

QPAC®60 (poly-butylene-carbonate) and QPAC®130 (poly-cyclohexene carbonate)

Empower Materials also has the technology to modify the polymer’s molecular weight across a very broad range.

QPAC® Organic Binders in Fuel Cell Fabrication

QPAC® is clean-burning, decomposes at very low temperatures, burns out completely and consistently, and offers exceptional green strength for ceramic parts.

If you look closely at the composition of QPAC®, you may find that it has additional benefits for other uses in the construction of fuel cells.

QPAC®25, or PEC polyethylene carbonate can prevent or obstruct oxygen from passing through the porous membrane film.

QPAC®40, or PPC polypropylene carbonate is an effective water barrier. It is not soluble in water, which is the main constituent in the electrolytic solution into which the fuel cell is placed.

Both polymers are suitable for extrusion or co-extrusion with/for the porous selective membrane film.

Both polymers could be utilized as a solid matrix for holding the electrolyte or catalyst in place in the fuel cell. Both grades of QPAC® would be extremely flexible in terms of the shape or thickness of the matrix.

Additionally, QPAC® could be altered to add some conducting moiety to the polymer backbone, which would allow it to be used as the electrolyte.

Clean Water Based Polypropylene Carbonate Emulsion System

Empower Materials Inc. is the producer of QPAC®, the world’s cleanest thermally decomposable organic/sacrificial binders. QPAC® cleanly decomposes into CO2 and water in many types of atmospheres and leaves virtually no residue. This property contributes to QPAC®‘s widespread usage in many demanding applications.

QPAC® poly(alkylene carbonate) copolymers are a unique family of innovative thermoplastics representing a true breakthrough in polymer technology. While traditional plastics have been primarily petroleum-based, these materials are derived from carbon dioxide and are produced through the copolymerization of CO2 with one or more epoxides. The resultant polymers are amorphous, clear, readily processible, and have long-term mechanical stability. They are also environmentally friendly by consuming 50% fewer petrochemicals, as compared to other polymers which are 100% petrochemical-based. In addition, they may exhibit biodegradable properties consistent with an environmentally friendly binder.

QPAC®25, polyethylene carbonate, and QPAC®40, polypropylene carbonate, are the two most widely used products within our family of binders. However, there is a wide range of QPAC® polymers possible by varying the epoxide monomer or using blends of epoxides to produce a specific reaction. Our technical group has the expertise to effectively work with you to develop the appropriate product for your application.

Production Capabilities of Empower Materials

Empower Materials is the world’s only commercial manufacturer of polyalkylene carbonates. Empower Materials can make large quantities (1000’s kgs) of QPAC®25, polyethylene carbonate, QPAC®40, polypropylene carbonate, and QPAC®100- a terpolymer of polypropylene carbonate and polycyclohexene carbonate.

Additionally, a wide range of other QPAC® polymers is possible via the substitution of oxiranes (epoxides) using the same production equipment configuration. In addition to QPAC®25, QPAC®40, and QPAC®100 (polypropylene carbonate, polyethylene carbonate, and polypropylene carbonate/polycyclohexene, respectively). The following have been successfully synthesized on pilot scale equipment:

QPAC®60 (poly-butylene-carbonate) and QPAC®130 (poly-cyclohexene carbonate)

Empower Materials also has the technology to modify the polymer’s molecular weight across a very broad range.

Clean Water Based Polypropylene Carbonate Emulsion System

There is a growing interest in nonsolvent systems with the push toward greener technologies. Traditionally, polyalklene carbonates, including polypropylene carbonate, PPC, were only supplied in solvent-based systems because they are not soluble in water. Empower Materials developed a water-based emulsion system several years ago to address customer needs for a water-based polypropylene carbonate emulsion.

This product has recently been improved to offer the customer an exceptionally clean and stable emulsion. With a proprietary process, Empower Materials can produce a QPAC®40 polypropylene carbonate emulsion that exhibits excellent mechanical properties for a water-based emulsion. The emulsion is stable with a long shelf life, and the additives have been minimized and are of the cleanest type to match the clean properties of QPAC®40. Additionally, the suspended particles are extremely fine. This aqueous dispersion is now commercially available.

Using QPAC® Polyalkylene Carbonate as a solid state electrolyte for flexible solid lithium batteries

Numerous organizations have investigated the use of QPAC®25 polyethylene carbonate (PEC) and QPAC®40 polypropylene carbonate (PPC) in solid lithium ion battery applications. Research has been ongoing for many years to find an alternative to liquid electrolyte batteries because of their inherent safety issues mainly due to the volatility and combustion of the liquid carbonate organic electrolyte. Solid polymer electrolytes can also offer enhanced flexibility and processability. The challenge with the past solid polymer electrolyte has been low ionic conductivity. There has been a lot of work to overcome this past issue so that the solid lithium batteries perform as well as the liquid polymer batteries.

QPAC®25 polyethylene carbonate and QPAC®40 polypropylene carbonate are both polymer candidates for electrolytes. Carbonate-based solvents are usually used as the electrolyte solution in Li-ion batteries because of their high dielectric constant. Therefore, the carbonate groups of QPAC®25 and QPAC®40 provide a good structure for the polymer framework. The work shows that the PEC can form a high-performing polymer matrix for the electrolyte and shows very good ion-conductive properties. Additional work by other groups focused on PPC for the polymer matrix. This work also showed favorable battery performance results.

Overall, the use of both QPAC®25 polyethylene carbonate and QPAC®40 polypropylene carbonate exhibited high conductivity and high ionic transference number along with good mechanical strength. The results show comparable performance to liquid electrolyte battery technology. Therefore, the safety issues and flexibility constraints of liquid polymer batteries can be eliminated without sacrificing performance by using these polyalkylene carbonate polymers in the electrolyte formulation.

The benefits of QPAC®25 Polyethylene Carbonate in Controlled Drug Delivery Applications

QPAC®25 Polyethylene Carbonate has been studied as a biomaterial for controlled drug delivery applications. The QPAC®25 PEC offers biodegradable properties that make it attractive for this application. Films prepared from PEC have been made with various drugs to study the characteristics and performance of PEC as a potential carrier for controlled drug delivery. Studies have shown that QPAC degrades linearly via enzyme breakdown. There was also a correlation between PEC molecular weight and degradation time. Overall, the studies show that QPAC®25 can be used in controlled drug release applications. Note that QPAC®25 is not FDA registered.

Empower Materials Wins North American Technology Innovation of the Year Award

Empower Materials was awarded the North American Technology Innovation of the Year Award in the carbon capture materials market by Frost and Sullivan. The Technology Award is a prestigious recognition of Empower Materials’ accomplishments in renewable and sustainable materials. Empower Materials, based in New Castle, DE, has developed QPAC® Polyalkylene Carbonate plastics derived from carbon dioxide and produced through the copolymerization of the gas with one or more epoxides.

In announcing the award, Frost & Sullivan commented:

“Frost & Sullivan is proud to present the 2011 North American Technology Innovation of the Year Award in Carbon Capture Materials to Empower Materials Inc. The Award was based on Empower Materials’ superior overall rating above its competition on five criteria: uniqueness of technology, impact on new products/applications, impact on functionality, impact on customer value, and relevance of innovation to the industry.

Large amounts of carbon dioxide are released when fossil fuels are burned and major global climate changes are predicted as carbon dioxide concentration increases in the atmosphere. Empower Materials has developed QPAC copolymers – materials derived from carbon dioxide, and produced through the copolymerization of the gas with one or more epoxides. Empower Materials’ polymers are a welcome alternatives to traditional fossil fuel-based plastics since in addition to helping reduce the use of fossil fuels, they can create a market for waste carbon dioxide.

They are a viable, eco-friendly alternative solution to carbon capture and carbon sequestration. Frost & Sullivan expects that the trend for alternatives to traditional materials to create a significant impact on the polymer manufacturing and processing domain, as a strong preference toward eco-friendly products is currently being emphasized. In this context, the catalyst, proprietary conditions, and proprietary manufacturing process of Empower Materials has created a unique technology platform.

Empower Materials Inc. Produces Commercial Scale Quantities of QPAC®60 Polybutylene Carbonate

Empower Materials recently finished several production size polymer synthesis reactions to produce large quantities of QPAC®60 Polybutylyene Carbonate.

These polymers add to the other green polymers commercially produced by Empower Materials, QPAC®25 Polyethylene Carbonate, QPAC®40 Polypropylene Carbonate, QPAC®100 Polypropylene/ Polycyclohexene Carbonate, and QPAC®130 Polycyclohexene Carbonate

QPAC®60 has similar decomposition properties to QPAC®25 and QPAC®40. It degrades at low temperatures and the residuals remaining after decomposition are negligible.  The polymer has a higher glass transition temperature than both QPAC®25 and QPAC®40.  It also exhibits unique flexibility while maintaining excellent strength and binding/ adhesion properties. One targeted application for QPAC®60 is for tape casting applications.

The new catalyst technology developed recently has allowed for the production of these materials as well as higher molecular weights for both QPAC®25 and QPAC®40, QPAC®100 Polypropylene/ Polycyclohexene Carbonate, and QPAC®130 Polycyclohexene Carbonate

Please contact PeterFerraro@empowermaterials.com for more information.

A Binding Matter

Ceramic Industry Magazine article 

Poly(alkylene carbonate) binders have been shown to burn out cleanly and uniformly, while providing high green strength to refractory products.

It is widely understood that the use of additives and processing aids is critical in the forming stage for ceramic materials. These additives include binders, plasticizers, dispersants, surfactants, and lubricants. Each has their own specific use in the ceramic system, but all are a potential source of contamination and therefore can affect the production cycle, rejection rates, properties of the finished product, and ultimately the overall manufacturing cost.

Binders have been called the most important processing additive of the ceramic sintering process, and along with plasticizers, account for the bulk of all additives used in the ceramic processing industry. An effective binder will hold dry powders or aggregate together during sintering, burning out cleanly and uniformly while providing exceptional green strength to the sintered parts.

Poly(alkylene carbonates) are a family of organic polymers that possess a number of unique characteristics which make them ideal for use as binders for ceramic powders, especially alumina and silicon carbide, two well-known refractory grade ceramic materials commonly formed by way of various pressing, extrusion, slip casting (tape casting) and powder injection molding (PIM) operations.

Properties of Poly(Alkylene Carbonate) Binders

The poly(alkylene carbonate) binders are synthesized through the reaction of carbon dioxide and epoxides. Two polymers are readily available as binders–poly(propylene carbonate) and poly(ethylene carbonate). Both have properties that translate into superior performance for advance ceramics. Decomposition of poly(alkylene carbonate) binders is complete through three phases–solid, liquid and vapor.

Poly(alkylene carbonate) binders decompose completely in air below 300°C, at temperatures at least 100°C less than conventional binders. Complete burnout in nitrogen and argon and reducing atmospheres that contain hydrogen is possible at temperatures as low as 360°C, and under vacuum, poly(alkylene carbonate) burnout temperatures are even lower.

Poly(alkylene carbonate) binders burn out completely, as the products of their combustion are carbon dioxide and water vapor are non toxic, non flammable and environmentally safe. Many refractory type ceramis find end uses in applications in the electronics industry as capacitors, piezo-electrics, insulators, and sensors, all requiring high purity. Poly(alkylene carbonate) binders have been shown to yield strong green sintered parts that are virtually contaminate free. Ash residues are typically less than 50 parts per million (ppm) for the pure binder. Based on 3% binder use (a typical amount), residual ash and finished parts is well under 2 ppm, suitable for applications where purity is essential.

The low sodium levels of the binders are also encouraging for those producing dielectric materials, which have critical purity requirements. Based on 3% binder levels, poly(alkylene carbonate) binders exhibit less than 0.3 ppm residual sodium.

Unlike other binders, poly(alkylene carbonate) binders are also unique in that they burn out mildly, without violent gas formation. Therefore, fewer rejects due to cracking and variations in thermal expansion can be expected. Decomposition can be easily predicted, allowing for more reliable control.

Poly(alkylene carbonate) binders are amorphous with an easily reached class transition temperature (Tg) of 40°C. Poly(ethylene carbonate) binders are also amorphous but with a Tg of 25°C. The Tg can be further lowered with the addition of propylene carbonate, a monomer co-produced during the polymerization process of poly(propylene carbonate).

Poly(alkylene carbonate) binders are soluble in a wide range of polar organic solvents, including:

  • Acetone
  • Methylene chloride
  • Methyl ethyl ketone
  • Ethyl acetate
  • Chlorinated hydrocarbons

The binders are insoluble in alcohol, ethylene glycol, and aliphatic hydrocarbons. Although they are also insoluble in water, stable aqueous emulsions are available on a custom basis for using the water-based processes.

The poly(propylene carbonate) form of poly(alkylene carbonate) binders performed well in tests with numerous ceramic powders including the following:

  • Alcoa alumina (A-12, A-14, A-16, SG)
  • Coors ADA-90 alumina
  • Reynolds RC-HP-DBM alumina with MgO
  • Herman Stark B-10 silicon carbide

Binder Comparison

The poly(propylene carbonate) form of poly(alkylene carbonate) has shown significant benefits in ceramic applications. The use of poly(propylene carbonate) over conventional binders, such as polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) and methylcellulose is pressing, extrusion, tape casting, and PIM operations has been successfully demonstrated.

During the pressing operation, samples coated with poly(propylene carbonate) had higher green densities relative to theoretical densities than those samples coated with no binder, with PVOH, and with Methylcellulose.

By using a binder that decomposes cleanly and completely in inert atmospheres, the volume of gas products produced was dramatically reduced during sintering relative to combustion in air. Reducing the gas volume produced during sintering in this manner decreases the likelihood of flaw generation during sintering thereby increasing the likelihood of crack-free ceramic parts being produced, and allows for thicker ceramic parts to be manufactured.

Tape Casting and Injection Molding

The tape casting process is often used to form thin flat ceramic parts, but this process requires that the chosen binder remain flexible, even after drying. One of the unique characteristics of poly(propylene carbonate) is its ability to be plasticized by its own monomer, propylene carbonate. Poly(propylene carbonate) binders also have excellent film forming and coating capabilities, making them an excellent choice for the tape casting process. Extensive work has ben done to develop optimal formulations for binding alumina, using poly(propylene carbonate) as a binder in MEK and MEK/toluene solvent mixtures. These formulation offer high green strength and density, efficient binder burn-off, and good ability for lamination. Tapes significantly thinner than 1 mil (.001″) and as thick as 50 mils (.050″) have been produced using poly(propylene carbonate).

Studies have been carried out comparing a poly(propylene carbonate) based alumina composition with a wax-based (based on paraffins and microcrystalline waxes) alumina composition in ceramic injection molding trials. Results from these trials suggest dramatic improvement in mean failure stress, from about 230 to over 300 MPa when going from the wax mix to the poly(propylene carbonate) mix. Overall, there were fewer flaws in the poly(propylene carbonate) bars than in the bars made from wax mix composition. In the poly(propylene carbonate) bars, the flaws were limited to the contours of the molding defects that were knit lines in the thick sections. In the wax-mix bars, flaws were evenly distributed and more spherical in nature.

Expanding Applications

Poly(propylene carbonate) binders have demonstrated their value commercially over a wide range of critical ceramic powder forming operations for over a decade. Their unique and valuable properties provide advantages for certain refractory grade ceramics in pressing, extrusion, tape casting, and injection molding processes. As novel and demanding applications involving refractory type powders increase, the use of binders such as poly(alkylene carbonate) will become even more critical.