For the Chinese and European polystyrene industry, a joint challenge is product innovation toward
high-quality products in a sustainable manner. Such innovation relies on the dedicated control of
multiphase polymerizations possessing a strong multi-scale character: (i) reactions and diffusional
limitations at the micro-scale; (ii) particle size/morphological changes at the meso-scale; (iii)
imperfect mixing and temperature gradients at the macro- or reactor scale. Limited focus has
however been paid to the joint investigation of the relevant phenomena at these scales and their
interaction in view of product homogeneity and thus enhanced properties. This can be explained by
the high complexity of multiphase polymerizations, requiring advanced modeling techniques with
tedious experimental validation at each scale.
In the present project, a generic multi-scale modeling framework is developed allowing process
design of all polystyrene products, with specific application focus on expandable polystyrene (EPS)
and high impact polystyrene (HIPS). The Flemish PI (Prof. Dagmar R. D'hooge) and the Chinese PI
(Prof. Zheng-Hong Luo) have jointly significant and unique modeling experience on all relevant
length scales to be successful in this respect. Exchange of PhD students is envisaged to facilitate the
knowledge exchange on the different scales. Experimental data at pilot and plant scale are already
available in the group of the Chinese PI.