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Manufacture of Polystyrene 59

ture. A number of processes have been developed for carry-

ing out polymerization at the desired temperatures, several of

which are used commercially.

Generally after polymerization the product is formed into

pellets by an extrusion operation. This involves the use of a

standard- high- capacity extruder which forces the material

through a multi-orifice die. The resulting strands, cooled by

being passed through a water bath, are chopped into pellets

of the desired size and shape.

The extruder screws used for this operation may vary con-

siderably in design. Colorants frequently are added at this

step of the process; for colored stocks the screw must allow

for extensive mixing as well as high output. Other feeds may

require some devolatilization which in turn demands a de-

volatilizing screw and barrel.

The Manufacture of Regular Polystyrene

Mass Polymerization of Styrene. Mass polymerization

constitutes the polymerization of pure monomer; initiators

may or may not be employed. One of the earliest commercial

processes, developed and used in Germany,1 involves prepoly-

nif.ri7;atinn of the styrene to about 33 per cent conversion by

heatings in a large vessel at 80°C for two days. The viscous

solution is then fed from the bottom of the kettle into a poly-

merization tower which has temperatures ranging from 100°C

at the top to 180°C at the bottom. The finished polymer is

removed continuously from the bottom of the tower through

an extruder.

Continuous Solvent Process. A process current in Eng-

land, and reportedly similar to that used by the Dow Chemical

Co. in the United States, employs a continuous solvent process

for the polymerization of styrene. Distrene, Ltd. is said to use

1 German Plastics Practice by J. M. De Bell, W. C. Goggin and

W. E. Gloor, p. 28, published by De Bell and Richardson (1946).


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