RAFT: making better polymers

Our RAFT polymerisation process enables the production of polymers that are designed with enhanced properties for a myriad of uses across health, industry and agriculture. It is based on scalable manufacturing processes that are compatible with conventional polymerisation reactors.

The Challenge

Designing polymers for industry

Polymers are materials composed of large molecules used to make everyday products from paint to sunscreen.

Traditional approaches to creating polymers (known as polymerisation) tend to result in a diverse blend of polymers and give little or no control over their molecular structure and properties.

Better control over the polymers created through the process would open up the opportunity to create new and improved products.

Our Response

The RAFT process

RAFT: Creating better polymers to transform everyday products

Show transcript

[Title appears RAFT: Creating better polymers to transform everyday products]

[Image changes to an animation of molecules, then changes to show pictures of the items described]

Products that we use in everyday life, from shampoo, paint and contact lenses to smartphones, toys and sunscreen, contain polymers.

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Polymers are materials composed of large molecules. They can be natural like the proteins that are in our DNA, or man-made such as the plastic polystyrene used for packaging.

[Image changes to an animation of a box with polystyrene pieces inside]

[Image changes back to the animation of molecules and zooms in on one of the molecule parts with the CSIRO logo on it]

CSIRO has invented a revolutionary technology that creates a new generation of advanced polymer materials.

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Our technology, called RAFT, improves both the manufacturing process and the end polymers by enabling complete control over polymer design, size and shape.

[Image shows molecules in different arrangements as described by the narrator]

By making small changes to the chemistry of the RAFT agent, polymers can be crafted in a huge variety of ways - long, branched, grafted or star shaped. The options are endless.

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This flexibility allows companies to create tailored materials to enhance performance or provide entirely new functionality.  

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RAFT provides a competitive advantage across industries such as healthcare, cosmetics, electronics, energy and industrial processing, and has already been used by multinationals including L'Oreal, IBM and Dulux.

[Image changes to a drawing of Australia which is coloured red]

This versatile Australian invention is simple, inexpensive and doesn’t require any equipment and has led to a new generation of materials being used every day around the world.   

[Image shows the RAFT logo then a paint tin, sunscreen, smart phone and other items fall from the top of the screen]

RAFT - creating products that help people and the planet, benefitting health, productivity and the environment.

[CSIRO logo appears with text: Big ideas start here, www.csiro.au]

Hide transcript

Our RAFT (Reversible Addition-Fragmentation chain Transfer) technology provides a better way of making polymers. It gives rise to products with vastly improved performance, which can give companies an important differentiation in the marketplace.

RAFT's applications range from novel drug delivery systems to personal care products, lubricants and coatings.

RAFT is a form of controlled free radical polymerisation that enables design of polymers with enhanced properties. RAFT can be used with a wide range of monomers and reaction conditions and gives unprecedented control over polymer size, composition and architecture. It is based on scalable manufacturing processes that use conventional processing equipment.

RAFT is a polymerisation technology invented by CSIRO. © Stewart Donn

RAFT polymers can be synthesised with:

  • predetermined molecular weight and narrow molecular weight distributions, resulting in more homogeneous polymer structures requiring less downstream processing
  • reactive terminal groups that can be purposely manipulated to build in additional functionality in the polymer backbone
  • complex architecture, including graft, star and gradient polymers.

We continue to pursue the design of novel materials with superior chemical, physical and mechanical properties for application in a range of areas.

RAFT is protected by an extensive intellectual property portfolio and is available for collaboration and licensing. Our aim is to enable commercial use of RAFT and to establish mutually beneficial relationships. We work with partners in designing polymers to suit their needs and can provide rapid prototyping of polymers using our high-throughput facilities, which enable many possible combinations of polymer structure and composition to be rapidly and cost-effectively developed and evaluated.

RAFT involves the use of chain transfer agents, which are small organic molecules that are responsible for controlling growth. RAFT agents can be purchased from our licensed suppliers: Boron Molecular , Monomer Polymer , Sigma Aldrich and Strem .

Case study


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