Starnes receives award from Society of Plastics Engineers

  • PVC MasterWilliam H. Starnes, Jr. has broad expertise in the degradation, stabilization, microstructure, polymerization mechanisms, fire retardance, and smoke suppression of technologically important synthetic polymers, especially poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC).

    PVC Master

William H. Starnes, Floyd Dewey Gottwald, Sr., Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at the College of William and Mary, is the first recipient of the Elliott Weinberg Vinyl Communications Award, presented by the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) in May.

Starnes received the award for his paper presentation at the National Conference of the SPE on the degradation mechanism of poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC). His paper was essentially a critique of theories proposed by past vinyl plastics scientists to explain the process of PVC heat degradation.

“My paper looked at a lot of information that was obtained from my laboratory, both in the past and fairly recently,” Starnes explained. “I was able to show that current thoughts on a couple of chemical mechanisms for the degradation were incorrect.”

Starnes received the award, which included a $3,000 honorarium, at the conference in Boston. The Elliott Weinberg Award, meant to “promote communication of vinyl research,” is the newest honor presented by the SPE in its Vinyl Division.

Elliott Weinberg was a prominent member of the SPE, and Starnes recalled meeting him during a conference at City University of New York in 1978. Starnes recalled that Weinberg nominated him for the 38th Annual Honor Scroll Award of the American Institute of Chemists, which Starnes received in 1989.

“Weinberg was well-known in the field of vinyl plastics,” Starnes said. “He’d done some very useful work on the heat stabilization of PVC.”

The two grew to be close friends over the years, until Weinberg passed away in May 2009. The award was then put into effect by the SPE, not only to promote research, but also to memorialize a prominent member of the SPE and contributor to vinyl plastics research over the years.

An extended version of Starnes’s paper on the heat degradation of PVC will appear in the Journal of Vinyl and Additive Technology later this year.