VAM is a key raw material in the production of emulsion polymers and polyvinyl alcohol, which are used to manufacture coatings, adhesives, building products and other materials.
Air Products sold its polyvinyl alcohol business in 2000 to Celanese AG, although Air Products remains a supplier of emulsion polymers and other "downstream products" through joint ventures with Wacker-Chemie GmbH.
In announcing the technology donation to UC-Davis, Air Products noted that it remains a major purchaser of VAM, and said it is seeking further advances in the development of an alternative, lower-cost production method for the material.
The company said its researchers were successful in developing the VAM production process in which dimethyl ether is reacted with carbon monoxide-rich syngas in the presence of recycle streams to produce ethylidene diacetate (EDA) and acetic acid. Air Products said initial tests indicated that the method, with appropriate catalysis development, could be significantly less expensive than conventional VAM technology. A search for a university to further develop the technology led to UC-Davis due to the institution's expertise in catalysis, Air Products said.
Barry Klein, vice chancellor for Research at UC Davis, said Professor Bruce Gates, an authority in the area of catalysis research, "will now be able to pick up this technology and run with it. We're very pleased to have Air Products as a partner" in research and teaching programs, he said.