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In polymerization reactions, the final polymer particle size distribution and changes in the particle and droplet size distribution over time are important factors to consider. Traditionally polymerization kinetics have been estimated using offline methods. However, such an approach can be difficult due to poor sample stability at room temperature and pressure, high sample viscosity making sample preparation difficult and a fast rate of reaction meaning offline measurements do not capture kinetics with a high enough resolution. In addition, safety is a major concern as polymerization reactions are highly exothermic and the materials are often toxic. Therefore, offline sampling of a polymerization process can be difficult, misleading, and unsafe. A deeper understanding of the polymerization kinetics can help scientists improve many areas of polymerization development and production, in particular safety, reaction kinetics, post processing and final product specification. The use of in situ tools can facilitate the elucidation of polymerization kinetics with no need for sampling. Real-time measurements ensure a high degree of resolution and also allow operators to act decisively in the plant environment to ensure product specifications are met.
Understanding and optimizing critical process parameters is important when developing polymerization processes and enables scientists and chemical engineers to avoid off-spec product, agglomerated particles and runaway reactions. Tracking particle growth in real time ensures the polymerization process is on track and control any deviations from expected batch progression.