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Natta, Giulio

stereoregular shown polymers polymer

(1903–79) Italian polymer chemist: developed theory and technology of stereospecific polymerization.

Natta graduated in chemical engineering at Milan Polytechnic and after short periods at three Italian universities returned to Milan in 1938 as professor of industrial chemistry. From 1938 his work was directed to new polymers, initially synthetic rubbers. In 1953 he began work with the catalysts shown by K Ziegler (1898–1973) to polymerize alkenes under mild conditions. By 1954 he had shown that these catalysts can give polymers that are stereoregular, ie the repeating unit in the polymer chains has a recurring and regular space-arrangement (stereochemistry). This feature (named as ‘tacticity’ by Natta’s wife) is important because a suitable stereoregular form has commercially useful properties of high strength and melting-point. He found that propene could be made to give an isotactic polypropylene well-suited for moulded products. Both the ideas and the products devised by Natta have been much used; with Ziegler, he shared a Nobel Prize in 1963.

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