Midland researcher receives national award

August 22, 2000

Perfects polymer foams over long career

Chemist L.C. "Bud" Rubens of Midland, Mich., will be honored on August 20 by the world's largest scientific society for his pioneering research in polymer foams, used in energy-saving thermal insulation, packaging materials, and myriad other products. He will be designated one of 12 Heroes of Chemistry by the American Chemical Society at its 220th national meeting, in Washington, D.C.

"I was fortunate to join Dow in 1940 when petroleum-based plastics were becoming important in industry," said Rubens. He retired 46 years later but, at age 80, remains an active consultant.

Among his contributions is the study of gaseous blowing agents, compounds that expand heat-softened polymers (plastics) into soft or rigid foams containing millions of bubbles. A foam's characteristics -- how springy, durable, insulating, buoyant, moldable, light- or chemically-resistant -- can depend not only on the polymer's properties but also on the size and shape of its bubbles, said Rubens.

"The trick is to select a blowing agent that leaves the foam at about the same rate as the air comes in," he explained. "This causes pressure to remain constant inside the bubbles, or cells, so the foam doesn't collapse before it becomes stable."

Rubens has obtained 58 U.S. patents, helping the Dow Chemical Company develop processes for making such widely used products as packaging materials for advanced electronics and insulating board. Earlier this year, Rubens was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame in Chicago.

Dow's president and chief executive officer, William Stavropoulos, said Rubens is also a generous mentor. "Literally hundreds of Dow scientists have benefited from Bud's contributions of time, attention and encouragement."

Rubens began at Dow as an hourly laboratory helper with a two-year associates degree. "It was the Depression, you know, and my college had gone bankrupt and closed its doors," he said. "My bosses became my surrogate professors."
The Heroes of Chemistry program, started in 1996, honors industrial chemists and chemical engineers who create commercially successful products that improve the quality of life

8/9/00 #12849

A nonprofit organization with a membership of 161,000 chemists and chemical engineers, the American Chemical Society publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

American Chemical Society

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