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Gift of patents will enhance SWT polymer chemistry

Date of release: 06/05/01

SAN MARCOS, TEXAS — The polymer chemistry program at Southwest Texas State University, the largest university program in the Southwest focused on the creation of new polymers, has received a major boost from the Shell Oil Company in the form of a donation of patents.

The 50 U.S. patents, with an appraised value of several million dollars, are for a family of chemicals known as spirodilactams. They are the basic materials to produce high-temperature, high-strength polymers with many applications, including uses in the aerospace industry, in submarines and in household appliances.

The donation will expand research and development capabilities within the SWT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said Patrick Cassidy, a chemistry professor and associate vice president of academic affairs at SWT.

“The donation could easily lead to 20 graduate theses over the next 10 years and allow us to make important advances in the development of these materials. It provides a solid foundation for our program. These patents represent a multimillion-dollar investment by Shell, and we’re honored that the company chose SWT as the benefactor of that investment,” said Cassidy.

In recognition of the donation, SWT has renamed its polymer research program the Shell Center for Polymer Science and Technology. The center encompasses 8,000 square feet of fully equipped, state-of-the-art polymer research laboratories. John Fitch, a distinguished professor of chemistry emeritus at SWT, is the center’s interim director.

The patents became available for donation because of a change in the strategic direction within Shell Chemicals, a division of the Shell Oil Company. Increased emphasis was put on delivering bulk petrochemicals to large industrial customers, and emphasis on the development of specialty polymers was reduced.

“Since we felt this was excellent technology, we wanted to allow for its further development,” said Dale Holecek, vice president for technology-Americas of Shell Chemicals. “After we decided to donate this technology to a non-profit organization, we knew that a number of the nation’s leading universities had shown serious interest in its further development.”

SWT was selected, said Holecek, because of a past collaboration between Shell and Cassidy in the field of spirodilactam development and because of SWT’s reputation in polymer science.

“Further, we felt that SWT showed very strong enthusiasm and commitment to the technology and that it would make its best effort to further develop and commercialize it,” Holecek said.

Contact: Pat Cassidy at (512) 245-2573