Dow’s Phillip Hustad, Ph.D., Featured in American Chemical Society “What Chemists Do” Series

June 14,2016

“What Chemists Do” is a new video series produced by the American Chemical Society (ACS). The series highlights the work of chemists across various professional careers to demonstrate that "chemistry is life." The newest segment features Phillip Hustad, Ph.D., a principal research scientist in Dow Electronic Materials. Hustad is responsible for leading research and development of advanced materials for a variety of electronic applications.

In the video interview, Hustad talks about his work at Dow synthesizing polyethylene at the industrial level. To provide the backstory on his work, Hustad explains that catalysts for olefin polymerization were first discovered in the 1950’s and that similar systems are still used today to create billions of pounds of polymer.

“What Chemists Do” is a new video series produced by the American Chemical Society (ACS). The series highlights the work of chemists across various professional careers to demonstrate that "chemistry is life." The newest segment features Phillip Hustad, Ph.D., a principal research scientist in Dow Electronic Materials. Hustad is responsible for leading research and development of advanced materials for a variety of electronic applications.

In the video interview, Hustad talks about his work at Dow synthesizing polyethylene at the industrial level. To provide the backstory on his work, Hustad explains that catalysts for olefin polymerization were first discovered in the 1950’s and that similar systems are still used today to create billions of pounds of polymer.

Fast-forward to the 1990’s, when Dow introduced an advanced molecular catalyst capable of tuning the structure and activity of a polymer in a brand new way. Hustad said by combining copolymers of ethylene and alpha-olefin, it is possible to create plastics of different weights and strengths for different purposes, from rigid milk jugs to soft toothbrush handles. “Most of what we think of as a plastic is made of polyethylene or polypropylene,” says Hustad.

Hustad also talks about the origins of his work during graduate school at Cornell University, under the supervision of Professor Geoffrey Coates, Ph.D. He explains how focusing on the practical application of the catalyst, versus developing a molecule for molecule’s sake, impacted the future direction he took in his work at Dow. “The end game was to make a molecule that would then create a polymer that has never been made before,” he said.

Hustad’s words of advice for people seeking an industrial career in chemistry are to get out of your comfort zone and seek to understand the technology from the applications side; for him, that meant learning about materials science, because ultimately, research needs to lead to a commercial product. By forming partnerships with colleagues on the applications side he’s been able to interact directly with end-use customers to figure out what they need from the material, and translate that back to his R&D team.

Hustad has also been a part of the Litho University℠ series from Dow Electronic Materials. To see his video tutorials and white papers on lithography topics such as directed self-assembly (DSA), visit Litho University℠.