Chemistry and Processing of Polyolefin Elastomers (POE)

Polyolefin elastomers (or POEs) are a relatively new class of polymers that emerged with recent advances in metallocene polymerization catalysts. Representing one of the fastest-growing synthetic polymers, POEs can be substituted for a number of generic polymers including ethylene propylene rubbers (EPR or EPDM), ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), styrene-block copolymers (SBCs), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Image Credit: Maciej Bledowski/

Polyolefin elastomers are compatible with most olefinic materials, are an excellent impact modifier for plastics, and offer unique performance capabilities for compounded products.


Polyolefin elastomers are copolymers of ethylene and another alpha-olefin, such as butene or octene. The metallocene catalyst selectively polymerizes the ethylene and comonomer sequences and increasing the comonomer content will produce polymers with higher elasticity as the comonomer incorporation disrupts the polyethylene crystallinity. Furthermore, the molecular weight of the copolymer will help determine its processing characteristics and end-use performance properties with higher molecular weights providing enhanced polymer toughness.

POEs from Metallocene Catalysts

Polyolefin elastomers are produced using refined metallocene catalysts often referred to as single-site or constrained geometry catalysts. These catalysts have a constrained transition metal (generally a Group 4B metal such as titanium, zirconium, or hafnium) sandwiched between one or more cyclopentadienyl ring structures to form a sterically hindered polymerization site. This unique catalyst provides a single polymerization site instead of the multiple sites of conventional catalysts and provides the capability to tailor the molecular architecture of ethylene copolymers. (Note: Metallocene catalysts and process technologies can also be used to produce ethylene propylene rubbers).

Metallocene Catalyst Usage

The metallocene catalyst can be used in a number of polymerization processes including slurry, solution, and gas phase operations. The catalyst is usually first mixed with an activator or co-catalyst, which can significantly enhance the polymerization efficiencies to beyond a million units of polymer per unit of catalyst. Very low levels of the catalyst mixture are continuously metered into a reactor along with a predetermined ratio of ethylene and comonomer of choice. The molecular weight of the polymer continues to build with the polymerization of ethylene and comonomer at the catalyst site until stopped by catalyst deactivation or chain termination with hydrogen introduction to the reactor.

Processing Polyolefin Elastomers

Polymerization is very exothermic and requires efficient heat removal from the transport media of gas or solvent. Furthermore, reactor conditions must be carefully maintained to avoid loss of process control.

Post-reactor processes involve additives addition and isolation of the polymer from the transporting media and the high catalyst efficiencies generally do not require removal of the deactivated catalysts. The final product is then packaged per manufacturer capability and end-user need but can range from bags to railcars.

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Source: The Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers.


For more information on this source please visit The Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers.


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