Polymer reaction engineering (PRE) is a sub-discipline of chemical reaction engineering. The major task of PRE involves the study of polymerization rate and the design and operation of polymer reactor systems. It provides the critical bridge between bench-scale polymer chemistry in lab and full-scale commercial production in industry. Even with the same chemical recipe, a small difference in reactor system design and operation can result in totally different polymer products – or, as often said, “polymers are the products of processes.”
The field of PRE was born in North America and Western Europe with some of the pioneers including Archie Hamielec and John MacGregor (McMaster), Harmon Ray (Wisconsin), Karl-Heinz Reichert (Berlin) and Roel Westerterp (Twente). Researchers in the then developing countries like China were less well-known at that time, including Zuren Pan and Gan-Tang Chen of Zhejiang University, who started PRE work in the early 1960’s, but focused on application-oriented developments.
In the meantime, globalization has become the dominating trend of economy and industry, and all major international polymer producers have established significant production and R&D facilities in China.
To reflect and lead these developments, the ongoing “Hangzhou International Polymer Forum” conference series was held in 2007, 2011 and 2014. In addition, a recent special issue of Macromolecular Reaction Engineering has been published, guest-edited by Shiping Zhu (McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada).
This special issue, entitled “Polymer Reaction Engineering in China”, is meant to let the world know better about the Chinese PRE community, as well as giving a glance at what is going on in the polymer production industry in China. The issue includes a detailed review-type Essay on the development of PRE in China. The author, Bo-Geng Li of Zhejiang University, is one of the leading figures of the Chinese PRE community and together with his co-author Wen-Jun Wang summarizes the history, characteristics, and latest progresses of polymer reaction engineering in China.
The special issue then presents recent examples of academic research results from Chinese scientists as well as industrial research by companies like BASF and Du Pont.
Read here for free the full introductory Editorial by Shiping Zhu: