Published: December 2002
World consumption of fluoropolymers reached a record level of 246 million pounds per year in 2001. They are expected to maintain a growth rate above the US GNP. In addition to perfluoropolymers, partially fluorinated polymers will continue to impact a wide range of technologies as better control of their unique optical, electronic, processing, and surface properties are achieved. However, the fluoropolymer industry faces new challenges to maintain an environmentally and economically sustainable production. The use of supercritical or dense-phase CO2 to eliminate conventional chlorofluorocarbon solvent and reduce waste generation is gaining momentum. Conventional chlorofluorocarbon medium are environmentally unfriendly and are restricted due to their high ozone-depletion potential. Processes using aqueous medium are energy inefficient and generate a huge amount of wastewater. Fluoropolymer production in a CO2 medium is not only environmentally friendly but also requires lower capital investment and reduces the production costs. High purity grades of fluoropolymer can potentially be produced by this process.
This report will review new supercritical CO2 processes for flouropolymer production. It will principally focus on production of FEP and PFA resins. The process economics for production of FEP and PFA resins will be evaluated. The CO2 processes will be compared with conventional processes using an aqueous reaction medium. The process economics for the production of tetrafluoroethylene, hexafluoropropylene, and perfluoro(propylvinyl ether) are updated. In addition, we will include summaries of the relevant patents and the current state of the fluoropolymer industry. This report will be of particular interest to producers of fluoropolymers and in general, to polymer resin producers considering environmentally and economically sustainable production.