Process Economics Program Report 116
Electron Beam Curing Polymers
Published: September 1977
Commercial growth of.electron beam irradiation of plastics has made remarkable progress in two decades, from a small start in crosslinked polyethylene shrinkable tubing and food wrap film, to a wider spectrum of irradiated polymers in large volume by an increasing number of companies.
The objective of this report on electron beam curing of polymers is to analyze and review the technology, equipment, processing, and economics of what may be classified as one of the newest unit operations in the chemical industry. Because this new technique may be unfamiliar to many engineers and managers in the chemical industry, a summary of the fundamentals of high energy electron sources, units, dosimetry, ionization, penetration, and basic chemical effects is presented. The basic concepts of crosslinking, graft polymerization, scission, and degradation mechanisms are also discussed.
A comprehensive review of electron beam accelerator equipment is presented, particularly by its use for the irradiated products that make up the greater part of the present market. The market, major producers, and their products are discussed, and the economics of radiation curing are analyzed by comparison with the economics of the more conventional thermochemical method of curing for specific products. The economic evaluations are based upon a unit operation comparison of electron beam versus thermal curing only as they are part of an existing plant.