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Published: May 2013
Fluoroelastomers are fluorine-containing polymers noted for their exceptional resistance to heat, weathering and a wide assortment of fluids and chemicals, as well as for their exceptional sealing and mechanical properties. The working temperature range for fluoroelastomers is considered to be –26°C to 205-230°C, but for short working periods they will take even higher temperatures. Some perfluorocarbon elastomer types can resist temperatures up to 327°C. Products that contain fluoroelastomers, for example certain O-rings, gaskets and hoses, are essential for industries such as automotive, aerospace and others. Fluoroelastomers are used mainly in seals and barrier layers subjected to environments too severe for other elastomers.
This report covers three major types of polymers:
- Fluorocarbon elastomers
- Fluorosilicone elastomers
- Perfluorocarbon elastomers, also referred to as perfluoroelastomers
The following pie chart shows world consumption of fluoroelastomers:
Fluorocarbon elastomers are fluorine-containing polymers noted for their exceptional resistance to heat, weathering and a wide variety of fluids and chemicals, as well as for their excellent sealing and mechanical properties. They are used in highly demanding applications where extreme temperature ranges and chemical attack are encountered. The chief limitations on the use of fluorocarbon elastomers are cost and the relatively different technology of compounding and curing, which may involve long postcure times. The cured products generally have fairly good low-temperature flexibility and low resilience. Solvent resistance is generally high; however, certain organic liquids can cause considerable swelling. In addition, fluorocarbon elastomers are very sensitive to moisture and require a strictly controlled environment to process, thereby making the processing of fluorocarbon elastomers difficult. Thus, it is costly to compound these polymers.
Fluorosilicone elastomers are also known as fluorovinylmethyl silicone rubber. Fluorosilicones have a combination of fluorocarbon and silicone characteristics. They resist solvents, fuel and oil similarly to fluorocarbons and have high- and low-temperature stability similar to silicones. Fluorosilicones are widely used in aerospace fuel systems and in automotive fuel emission controls. They are the only elastomers that provide high resistance to fuels, oils and solvents and also have the high resilience, low-temperature performance, and outstanding ozone and weathering resistance of silicone rubber. Applications are primarily in the automotive and aerospace industries, where they are used in diaphragms, valves, O-rings, seals and sealants.
Perfluoroelastomers are specialty high-performance elastomers with exceptional chemical resistance properties and high-temperature stability. They are resistant to more than 1,800 chemical substances: ethers, ketones, esters, aromatic and chlorinated solvents, oxidizers, oils, fuels, acids, and alkali, and are capable of service temperatures up to 327°C. Primary areas of application (mainly used in high-performance O-rings/seals) are in paint and coating operations, oil and gas recovery, semiconductor manufacture, and in the pharmaceutical, chemical process, and aircraft and aerospace industries. Perfluoroelastomers can be used for all applications where the properties of regular fluorocarbon elastomers are not sufficient. Usually they are copolymers made of tetrafluoroethylene and perfluoromethylvinyl ether. The most important feature is the extreme reliability.
Total consumption of the three major fluoroelastomers is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 4% through 2018. Major market drivers are new product developments in sealing applications (better performance), further tightening of emissions standards in many of the industrialized countries and strong expansion and resurgence in automobile production.