SAN FRANCISCO—Here's an example of pride in one's accomplishments.
When P.S. "Ravi" Ravishankar, senior staff engineer at ExxonMobil Chemical Co., sees a big wheel of cable sitting on a truck on a highway, he thinks "that's my rubber right there."
It likely is, and he also could point to a number of other products, like weather sealing on automobiles, and say the same thing. That's the result of 24-some years as a scientist credited with leading the development of Vistalon EPDM rubber, Vistamaxx propylene-based elastomers and Exact plastomers—products used widely in automotive, wire and cable, and other applications.
Those successes resulted in Ravishankar's latest honor, the International Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers Technical Award. He received the award during the group's Annual General Meeting in San Francisco April 14-17.
In his acceptance speech and an interview afterward, Ravishankar discussed some of the innovations in which he has been involved.
The scientist recalled how in the early 1990s body sealing compounds for dense automotive weather seals were made up of three different EPDM grades to provide an optimum balance of properties.
"The customer could realize significant cost savings by using a single polymer," he said. "However, this single polymer had to meet a series of requirements that included one-pass mix ability, high extrusion speeds and fast cure rates to retain dimensional stability."
Ravishankar had rejoined the company in 1989 in the polymer operations. He worked in Exxon research for five years previously, but on solar-grade silicon, then moved to Westinghouse Electric Co. for six years.
Back at ExxonChemical, he made his mark on a number of material developments. Among his roles was directing the start-up of a pilot plant for the synthesis of EPDM polymers and other polyolefins using Ziegler-Natta and metallocene catalysts; led the reactor process area in the start-up of a facility to make those polymers; developed and commercialized a process to syn¬- thesize gel-free polymers using vinyl Norbornene; co-invented Vistamaxx; develop¬ed plastomer grades for auto¬- motive applications; and led global cross-functional teams to develop EPDM grades for automotive, roofing, wire and cable, and thermoplastic markets.
Ravishankar holds 40 patents. He previously won the ACS Rubber Division's Melvin Mooney Distinguish Technology Award for technical achievements.
It is the need for innovation that keeps a company in the forefront of technology, Ravishankar said. "I have been fortunate to have been on part of a team of very bright scientists and engineers in the elastomer business in ExxonMobil at a time when the business grew vary rapidly in both size and scope."
Material substitution—EPDM rubber for styrene-butadiene and nitrile rubbers—was ExxonMobil's mission for many years, said Ravishankar.
"And then when metallocene catalyst came along, the whole rubber/plastic industry changed," he said. "Now you can't really say what is rubber and what is plastics. The boundary has become fuzzy."