Acrylonitrile is used to produce plastics that are impermeable to gases and are ideal for shatterproof bottles that hold chemicals and cosmetics, clear “blister packs” that keep meats fresh and medical supplies sterile, and packaging for many other products. It is also a component in plastic resins, paints, adhesives, and coatings. The acrylonitrile in those products was made by a process discovered and developed in the 1950s by scientists and engineers at The Standard Oil Company, or Sohio.
In 1957, Sohio researchers developed the “Sohio Acrylonitrile Process,” an innovative single-step method of production that made acrylonitrile available as a key raw material for chemical manufacturing worldwide. Sohio’s groundbreaking experimentation and bold engineering brought plentiful, inexpensive, high-purity acrylonitrile to the market, a principal factor in the evolution and dramatic growth of the acrylic plastics and fibers industries. Today, nearly all acrylonitrile is produced by the Sohio process, and catalysts developed at the Warrensville Laboratory are used in acrylonitrile plants around the world. Sohio became part of The British Petroleum Company p.l.c. in 1987. The acrylonitrile manufacturing and catalyst and licensing businesses are now part of INEOS.
The process is a single-step direct method for manufacturing acrylonitrile from propylene, ammonia, and air over a fluidized bed catalyst. Today, nearly all acrylonitrile is produced by the Sohio process, and catalysts developed at the Warrensville Laboratory are used in acrylonitrile plants around the world. James L. Callahan, a research associate at Sohio, coordinated catalyst research and development, including the discovery of improved methods of catalyst manufacture. James D. Idol, Jr., a research associate who supervised and carried out research and feasibility testing, holds the basic patent for the process.
For more details, see the ACS Educational Portal: The Sohio Acrylonitrile Process
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