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The challenge

Designing polymers for industry

Polymers are materials consisting of large molecules, composed of many repeating units, used to make everyday products from paint to sunscreen.

Traditional approaches to creating polymers 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 RAFT process opens up the opportunity to create new and improved products.

Our response

The RAFT process

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.   

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

[CSIRO logo appears with text: Big ideas start here,]

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RAFT (Reversible Addition-Fragmentation chain Transfer) is a process for making precisely engineered polymers. It can give rise to products with vastly improved performance, which gives companies an important differentiation in the marketplace.

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

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.

Molecular weight distributions for a conventional and RAFT polymerization

  • RAFT polymerization can be performed by simply adding a chosen quantity of an appropriate RAFT chain transfer agent to a conventional free-radical polymerization. The same monomers, initiators, solvents, and temperatures are used
  • RAFT polymerization possesses the characteristics usually associated with living polymerization. All chains begin growth at the commencement of polymerization and continue to grow until the monomer is consumed. Molecular weights increase linearly with conversion
  • Narrow molecular weight distributions and predetermined molecular weights are achievable
  • RAFT polymerization results in reactive terminal groups that can be purposely manipulated to build in additional functionality in the polymer backbone
  • Complex architecture, including graft, block, star and gradient polymers are accessible.

The results

A fully integrated service

Our RAFT research team can provide bespoke solutions for polymer design and manufacture.

We provide a fully integrated service, including:

  • R&D services
  • process development including high throughout facilities
  • laboratory through to pilot-scale batch or flow manufacture

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, Merck and Strem.

CSIRO Characterisation Staff
CSIRO Characterisation Staff

RAFT architectures
RAFT architectures

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