Kraton Performance Polymers, Inc. (NYSE: KRA) is a leading global producer of engineered polymers used to enhance the performance of products that touch virtually every aspect of our lives. The original inventor of styrenic block copolymer (SBC) chemistry in the 1960s, Kraton has a history of innovation dating back almost 50 years that drives growth for its customers. The company has a broad portfolio of value-enhancing polymers that are used in a wide variety of applications including consumer and personal care items, adhesives and coatings, electronics, medical supplies, automotive components, and paving and roofing materials. Kraton offers its products to a diverse group of more than 800 customers in over 60 countries worldwide and collaborates with customers on custom solutions to meet specific needs.
In markets worldwide, the Kraton name has become synonymous with SBCs, a versatile family of polymers that add substantial value to a wide variety of products. We have led the development of virtually every major SBC application that our customers have commercialized. We are truly Giving Innovators Their Edge®.
The origins of Kraton Performance Polymers and its role in the development of styrene-based thermoplastic elastomers can be traced back to the U.S. government's Synthetic Rubber (GR-S) program during World War II. Between 1942 and 1945 this program developed a new styrene butadiene synthetic rubber (SBR) and built plants to provide a critical alternative to natural rubber for making tires for military vehicles during the war.
Shell Chemical Company, who was a butadiene supplier to the SBR plants, bought one of the plants in Torrance, California, when the government decided to sell its holdings in 1955. This newly formed Elastomers Division of Shell Chemical evolved into what is today Kraton Polymers.
Polymer Chemistry Advances Rapidly
The 1950's and 1960's were times of rapid advancement for polymer chemistry. In the late 50's , Shell commercialized an anionic polyisoprene for use in vulcanized rubber goods to broaden their portfolio of elastomers beyond SBR. In 1961, Shell scientists were working on a project to increase the green strength of anionic polyisoprene rubber for tire applications. They discovered that they could go well beyond improving green strength. They were able to make amazingly strong elastomers which required no vulcanization yet the elastomers could be molded into different shapes with heat (thermoplastic). All of this was possible by simply adding styrene monomer to the anionic polyisoprene polymerization in a block sequence.
This fortuitous discovery opened a whole new field of phase separated block copolymer "Nano structures" with amazing properties and structures. These thermoplastic elastomers were called Kraton® after Kratos, the Greek god of strength and brother of Nike. Over the next months and years, many new polymers and improvements were made. However, the key to success lay in finding and developing the commercial applications where the unique properties of block copolymers offered performance advantages.