Nickel Comes Full Cycle

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Science  21 Jan 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5452, pp. 437-438
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5452.437

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Polyolefins such as polyethylene and polypropylene form the basis of many of the plastics used in daily life today. The industrial process uses Ziegler catalysts, early transition metal compounds that allow low-cost manufacture of high-quality polyethylene and polypropylene polymers. However, these catalysts have limitations. For example, they do not tolerate polar functional groups on the olefins. Younkin et al. (page 460) have developed a nickel-based catalyst which overcomes this limitation, enabling the fabrication of new polymers with polar functionality. It is anticipated that this may lead to new plastics with desirable properties such as biodegradability and water-solubility.