ChE Seminar: Dr. Pat Brant

Event Date: November 14, 2017
Speaker Affiliation: ExxonMobil
Time: 3:00 - 4:15 pm
Location: FRNY G140
Open To: Attendance required for PhD students
Priority: No
School or Program: Chemical Engineering
College Calendar: Show

Dr. Pat Brant
Chief Polymer Scientist

"Polyolefins: Mass Produced Molecular Masterpieces"


The first polyolefin - low density polyethylene (LDPE) - was made in the 1930’s.   Since that accidental discovery over 80 years ago, wave after wave of innovations in catalyst, process, product, and fabrication have revealed their versatility in meeting the needs in a variety of demanding applications, from food packaging and health care, to automotive applications, lubrication, and much more. As a result, polyolefins are easily the largest class of polymers produced today.  Moreover, due to low cost feedstock from natural gas, polyolefin production in the United States is poised to grow substantially in the coming years.  In this presentation, we will tell the story of polyolefins by examining some of these innovations, and the science behind them, made along the polymer delivery chain (graphic below), especially with regard to meeting societal needs and improving quality of life around the world. We briefly illustrate new areas of research. Finally, we consider responses to sustainability challenges brought on by becoming one of the most successful materials on earth.  


Pat received his Ph. D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of Arizona in 1977 and then carried out post-doctoral research with Professor Dick Walton at Purdue University.   In 1978 he joined the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.  His time there was focused primarily on synthesis and characterization of conducting polymers such as polyacetylene.  In 1981, Pat joined Exxon Chemical Company in Baytown, TX.   In ExxonMobil he has held a variety of technical leadership and management positions, all in the polyolefins arena.  He has been Chief Polymer Scientist and Chief Polymer Science Advisor in ExxonMobil Chemical Company since 2000.  His contributions in supported metallocene catalyst design, synthesis, characterization, and operation in gas phase reactors have helped commercialize metallocene LLDPEs (mLLDPEs) made with substantially enhanced reactor space-time yields. Worldwide, these polyolefins are now produced on the multibillion pound scale.  Enabled by new low cost ethylene supply in the US, construction of new plants dedicated to mLLDPEs is now underway.  On a different front, Pat established a team that has extended utility of metallocenes to operation under high temperature, homogeneous, short residence time conditions.

Pat also led or contributed to research efforts on resin design and deployment for fresh produce packaging, new adhesives, stretch cling films, battery separator films, and specialty polypropylenes.  Pat has been interested in building basic structure-property relationships for polyolefins and polyolefin blends, as well as control of polyolefin surface and interface behavior. Focused on control of chain topology and functionalization largely enabled through control of the chain termination step to yield polyolefin macromonomers. These have been employed to synthesize bottlebrushes, combs, and comb-blocks, as well as a host of new functionalized polyolefins. 

He is inventor or co-inventor on over 125 granted US patents and author or co-author of over 50 publications.  Over the years, Pat has received a variety of external and internal awards, including the Exxon Outstanding Scientist Award, and given interviews and invited lectures in a wide variety of venues.  He was co-leader for a report prepared based on a 2016 NSF Workshop “Frontiers in Polymer Science and Engineering”.  Pat has been in one television commercial.