Analysis of optimal operation of a fed-batch emulsion copolymerization reactor used for production of particles with core-shell morphology

In this paper dynamic optimization of a lab-scale semi-batch emulsion copolymerization reactor for styrene and butyl acrylate in the presence of a chain transfer agent (CTA) is studied. The mathematical model of the process, previously developed and experimentally validated, is used to predict the glass transition temperature of produced polymer, the number and weight average molecular weights, the monomers global conversion, the particle size distribution, and the amount of residual monomers. The model is implemented within gPROMS environment for modeling and optimization. It is desired to compute feed rate profiles of pre-emulsioned monomers, inhibitor and CTA that will allow the production of polymer particles with prescribed core-shell morphology with high productivity. The results obtained for different operating conditions and various additional product specifications are presented. The resulting feeding profiles are analyzed from the perspective of the nature of emulsion polymerization process and some interesting conclusions are drawn.