Published August 2016
Methyl methacrylate (MMA) is by far the most important methacrylic acid ester. It is a colorless, volatile, flammable liquid that is slightly soluble in water. It polymerizes readily upon heating in the presence of a free radical initiator to form polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) resins, which have excellent transparency, strength, and outdoor durability. MMA is also copolymerized with other monomers (vinyl acetate, acrylate esters, or other methacrylates); the bulk of consumption is in acrylic polymers.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of methyl methacrylate:
MMA is widely used used in large amounts for the production of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) resins, which are used in applications such as cast and extruded sheet and resins for injection molding and extrusion. MMA is also used extensively in surface coatings (acrylic latexes, lacquers, and enamels) and adhesives. Other important applications for MMA include use for impact modification and as processing aids; as emulsion polymers principally for paper, textiles, leather, and floor polishes; in mineral-filled sheet; polyesters; and polymer concrete. Methyl methacrylate is also used as a starting material to manufacture other esters of methacrylic acid (via transesterification).
Residential and commercial construction, remodeling activity, automotive applications, and original equipment manufacture account for approximately 80–85% of world MMA consumption. Demand for these markets is greatly influenced by general economic conditions. As a result, demand for methyl methacrylate largely follows the patterns of the leading world economies. The markets for methyl methacrylate are largely captive; many of the larger producers consume 50–60% of their production captively, mainly for PMMA resins or surface coatings.
In 2013, China surpassed the United States as the largest MMA consumer in the world. By 2020, Chinese MMA consumption will account for about 25% of world consumption. Consumption of MMA is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 3% during 2015–20.