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Published: December 2012
Fluoropolymers are among the most useful modern materials, providing nonstick surfaces for cookware and industrial products, waterproofing surface treatments for clothing and other substrates, stain barriers for textiles, high-purity fluid handling "plumbing," medical applications, wire & cable insulation jackets, high performance coatings for harsh environments, mar-free coatings for touch screen electronic devices, architectural and marine coating additives, backsheets for photovoltaic panels, films and membranes for technical, waterproof clothing and industrial applications.
PTFE is the dominant fluoropolymer, accounting for 58% (by weight) of world fluoropolymer consumption in 2012. Other fluoropolymers include PVDF, FEP, ECTFE, PVF, ETFE, PFA, CTFE-VDF, PCTFE, THV and amorphous types. China is the dominant consumer of PTFE, while the United States is the dominant consumer of other fluoropolymers.
PTFE resin has been commercially available for over sixty years and a variety of applications have been developed.
- Wire and cable insulation for electrical/electronic and aerospace
- Plumbing and fluid processing equipment for chemical, petroleum, environmental, semiconductor and medical applications
- Textile fibers for clothing, dental floss and industrial/environmental applications, including laminates for clothing and industrial applications
- Lubricants for printing, including lubricity materials for mechanical joints and contact points in mechanisms
- Cookware coatings
- Mechanical, coating and lubrication applications for vehicles, building construction, industrial machines and appliances
The following pie chart shows world consumption of fluoropolymers:
Fluoropolymers are derived from fluorocarbons, which are a class of low-molecular-weight hydrocarbons that contain fluorine and in the past they typically contained chlorine (known as chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs). Fluorocarbons are also used as refrigerants, blowing agents, cleaning agents and aerosol propellants. When fluoropolymers are produced, fluorocarbon feedstocks become part of the solid polymer and are not emitted into the atmosphere over the life cycle of the product.
The United States accounted for 20% of the world consumption of PTFE in 2012 and 40% of the world consumption of other fluoropolymers. From 2012 to 2017, U.S. consumption of PTFE will grow at 2.0% per year and consumption of other fluoropolymers is expected to grow at an average annual rate of about 3.3%.
About 67% of Western Europe's fluoropolymer consumption is PTFE. During 2012–2017, Western European consumption of PTFE is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 3.5%, while other fluoropolymers are expected to grow at an average annual rate of 6.8% during the same period.
Japan is increasingly specializing in fluoropolymers other than PTFE. Japanese fluoropolymer consumption is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 5.9% between 2012 and 2017.
China is the world's largest consumer of PTFE, with 36% of world consumption in 2012. China's production capacity and production of other fluoropolymers became significant in 2012.
Other countries currently producing fluoropolymers include India and Russia. PTFE is the only fluoropolymer produced in all of them but Russia, and it is the dominant fluoropolymer traded and consumed in the rest of the world. Consumption of fluoropolymers in countries other than the United States, Western Europe, China and Japan accounted for about 12% of world fluoropolymer consumption. PTFE consumption in these countries will increase at an average annual rate of about 5% from 2012 to 2017.