Sudhin Datta knew from a very early age that he wanted to make a difference.
It didn't matter that the 2015 Charles Goodyear medalist had been trained at some of the top academic institutions across the world—he earned an undergraduate degree from the Indian Institute of Technology at Kapur and a doctorate in organometallic chemistry from Harvard University, among other stops.
Datta wanted to perform research—not at an academic institution but in industry.
“I always wanted to be an industrial chemist because I want to see the realization of what I do,” Datta said during an interview at the recent ACS Rubber Division 187th Technical Meeting in Greenville, where he received his award during the Science and Technology Banquet. “I want to see concrete things. I want to see what I work on turn into reality and in turn helping people, advancing the science, advancing technology, advancing things.”
For this last three decades, the 64-year-old Datta has been at the forefront of research and development of polyolefin elastomers, butyl and EPDM at ExxonMobil Chemical Co. in Baytown, Texas. He has been granted 108 U.S. patents, and his work has resulted in, among others, a line of propylene-based elastomers branded Vistamaxx and EPDM-based elastomers marketed as Vistalon.
The Vistamaxx line has applications in several sectors, including non-wovens, adhesives and films, while offering new solutions in compounding for polyolefinic blends and multi-layer structures. The product is used in such items as diapers, paint balls, shoe insoles, synthetic leather, packaging, and food and beverage containers.
The Vistalon line, meanwhile, has been used successfully in automotive, wire and cable, roofing and sheeting, industrial hose and belting applications. The company said it meets strict original equipment manufacturers' requirements for sponge door seals, glass run channel and other dense seal applications.
In other words, Datta's work has impacted products across all walks of life.
“That's why I do this work,” said Datta, the senior research associate in global chemical research at ExxonMobil. “If you drive a car, most American cars sold in this country will have a door seal or weather seal or a belt that the polymer for which was designed by me.
“The first 10 years (at ExxonMobil) I made EPDMs easier to use, and they got very wide acceptance. So when I see something, or when I look at black roof sheeting, chances are it's a polymer I designed. You look at it, and say, "That's why I don't want academia. That's why I work in the industry.' “