Before developing groundbreaking polymers at Dow, applying for patents, publishing papers, giving presentations, and mentoring numerous fellow employees and university students, Bharat Chaudhary was a student at the University of Benin in Nigeria, where his interest in R&D began. “I did a research dissertation as part of obtaining a B. Eng. degree in Chemical Engineering. After that, I pursued Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Chemical Engineering at Imperial College, London, where I was initiated into research in polymers. My Ph.D. research was funded by BXL Plastics (then a wholly-owned subsidiary of BP Chemicals) and was of an applied nature. Based on this research, I was offered employment in the industry initially at Smith and Nephew Research in the U.K. and shortly thereafter at Dow in Germany.”
Indeed, Chaudhary’s accomplishments at Dow are impressive; starting with Dow R&D in Germany in 1990, he played a lead role in developing and implementing a proprietary global process technology for ETHAFOAM Extruded Polyethylene Foam made with a highly flammable blowing agent of zero ozone depletion potential (through modification of the polymer foam structure to eliminate flammability hazards). This initiative resulted in ETHAFOAM having a significant economic impact for many years as a global business of Dow. It set the theme of sustainability that has continued to run through several of Chaudhary’s important contributions.
In 1994, Chaudhary transferred to the United States, where he worked in the R&D departments of different Dow business units on various approaches for modifying olefinic, vinyl chloride, and styrenic polymers. In his present role at Dow Wire & Cable, Chaudhary continues to develop novel polymers and polymer compositions to create differentiated and advantaged products that are of value to both Dow customers and end-users. Several of the products and technologies that Chaudhary has been involved in developing over his career have been commercialized (some within the past three to five years) or are in the process of being commercialized.
More recent is the design of the SI-LINKTM DFDF-5451 NT Faster Moisture Curing Ethylene-Silane Copolymer, which is a novel silane functionalized ethylenic polymer having enhanced architecture that enables game-changing improvements in performance. Ambient crosslinking of the resulting compositions (with a given silanol condensation catalyst) is accelerated by three to forty times over the use of incumbent products, and the copolymer itself desirably exhibits excellent shelf stability.
Chaudhary’s accomplishments could stand on their own, but he’s gone above and beyond, having been dedicated to conducting research and development activities that bring value to Dow. He uses his technical expertise to coach individuals and teams, partners with colleagues across various Dow functions (such as Marketing, Manufacturing, R&D, Technical Service and Development, and more), and collaborates with leading universities and institutes worldwide His interactions with academia are particularly noteworthy, having led to process/product development, 12 patent applications, 19 journal papers, and five conference presentations. Additionally, Dow has hired talented students and post-doctoral fellows from some of the universities he has collaborated with.
About his career, Chaudhary is most proud of his ability to access the knowledge of experts in his field and make friends in the process.
“In general, my career has followed the track typical of most in the industry and has involved extensive collaborations with others. Where it has differed somewhat, is in the extent of interactions I have had with leading academics at universities and institutes globally, leveraging their expertise in support of process/product development at Dow. These collaborations have not only been of value to Dow, but the findings from these have also been published in reputable peer-reviewed scientific/technical journals. Furthermore, I have been able to co-author book chapters with other experts in the same field as myself. These initiatives have garnered me recognition as an expert in certain areas of polymer modification and, along the way, I have made several good friends with whom I continue to remain in touch.”
Being a mentor and inspiration to many fellow chemists begs the question, who inspired Chaudhary? “One of the persons who truly inspired me was the late Prof. Brian Briscoe of Imperial College, London. Brian was a renowned tribologist and a key proponent of interdisciplinary research that was of value to industry. It was under his guidance that I conducted research on polyethylene foams towards my Ph.D. Another high-caliber individual who has inspired me is Prof. Charles Liotta of Georgia Institute of Technology with whom I had the privilege to share the 2022 American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Polymeric Materials Science and Engineering (PMSE) Cooperative Research Award, along with Dr. Jeffrey Cogen formerly of Dow.
It’s no wonder that Chaudhary was chosen as one of the inaugural R&D 100 Professional Awards winners, having not only contributed to many sustainable polymers — no small feat in and of itself — but also helping to nurture the careers of other researchers. “I consider myself extremely privileged to have been selected to receive this award. This honor belongs to Dow, where I have spent almost the entirety of my career in R&D, for giving me various opportunities to develop meaningful technologies and products that are/were beneficial not just for the company, but also society at large. I can also honestly say that this accomplishment would not have been possible without the high-quality education that I received in the U.K. and Nigeria as well as my collaborations with others over the years. Thus, I am grateful to Dow, as well as all the teachers and collaborators I have had, both in industry and academia.