What are fluoropolymers?
- Fluoropolymers are a distinct subset of PFAS. They are polymers with fluorine atoms directly attached to their carbon-only backbone.
- With their unique physicochemical properties, these specialty plastics are virtually chemically inert, non-wetting, non-stick, and highly resistant to temperature, fire and weather. Non-replaceable in many applications, their unique properties cannot be guaranteed by other polymers.
What are the properties of fluoropolymers?
- Fluoropolymers have a unique set of properties and are:
- durable, stable and mechanically strong in harsh conditions in a variety of sectors including but not limited to automotive, aerospace, environmental controls, energy production and storage, and electronics, as well as in technical apparel;
- stable in air, water, sunlight, chemicals and microbes;
- chemically inert meeting the requirements for low levels of contaminants and particulates in manufacturing environments critical for the food and beverage, pharmaceutical, medical, and semiconductor industries;
- biocompatible; non-wetting, non-stick, and highly resistant to temperature, fire and weather.
Applications: where, how and why are fluoropolymers used?
- Today, fluoropolymers are used in numerous technologies, industrial processes and everyday applications from the aviation industry, to transportation, including electric vehicles, medical devices and energy production to technical apparel, to name just a few.
- They are durable, chemically inert and mechanically strong in harsh conditions, making them a critical material in many sectors with few, if any, viable alternatives.
What types of fluoropolymers are there?
- There are fluoroplastics and fluoroelastomers. Both subsets are based on the same monomers and are structurally similar. Their main difference is the higher elasticity of fluoroelastomers, achieved through chemical cross-linking.
- Fluoropolymers may be fully or partially fluorinated, linear or branched. All fluoropolymers are high molecular weight polymers with unique physicochemical properties that are distinctly different when compared to other PFAS substances.
Why are fluoropolymers critical for today’s society?
- The unique characteristics of fluoropolymers make them a critical material for a broad range of industries and sectors, playing a diverse and crucial role for society.
- Beyond their socio-economic value for European industry, their unique stability means that they are low-risk polymers for human health and their environment. Trying to replace them in their many applications would lead to substitution with alternatives (when available) that do not provide the same advanced performance and safety as fluoropolymers.
What industries are fluoropolymers used in and how do they add value?
- Here are but a few examples of their high societal value:
- In the transport industry, fluoropolymers provide durable and effective protection against heat, aggressive fluids and fuels, humidity, vibrations and compressions. Fluoropolymers therefore prolong the useful life of various components critical for performance, emission control, and safety in both the automotive and aerospace industries, including lithium batteries.
- When it comes to the chemicals industry, fluoropolymers allow for the safe storage and handling of chemicals through protective equipment and linings. Their chemical stability allows them to be resistant to some of the most corrosive substances on the market, protecting works and equipment from harm.
- Fluoropolymers also play an important role in the pharmaceutical and medical equipment industries, preventing drug contamination and material failure. This protects lives and saves costs across the sector.
- In the electronics industry, fluoropolymers are critical to the semiconductor manufacturing process. Here various fluoropolymer components can stand up to the aggressive etching chemicals and provide the necessary purity required in the production of microchips and other electronics, where even trace contaminants can severely affect production yield.
- Fluoropolymers are an indispensable driver of the European Green Deal – for example, across smart mobility, clean energy and sustainable industry - and are used within various components of renewable energy installations, such as hydrogen and PV panels. In addition, they facilitate advanced energy storage and conversion technologies such as lithium-ion batteries.