The Importance of Fluoropolymers Throughout Europe’s Biggest Industries
Did you know that fluoropolymers are everywhere? From major transport sectors like cars and planes, electronic circuit boards, and industrial pipes, to consumer products like frying pans. The multitude of possibilities enabled by fluoropolymer characteristics has driven the plastics adoption through manufacturers and suppliers across the globe.
Use of Fluoropolymers in Europe
In recent years, the European fluoropolymer market has experienced a remarkable upswing, riding the wave of technological advancements and increasing demand from some of the world’s biggest industries. Fluoropolymers—a class of high-performance synthetic resins, powders, and films known for their exceptional resistance to heat, chemicals, and weathering—have become key to revolutionising countless products and processes in the modern age.
The period from 2019 to 2021 witnessed a notable escalation in the adoption of fluoropolymers throughout Europe. As demand for durable, lightweight, and chemically inert materials continues to surge across sectors like aerospace, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and green energy, the fluoropolymer market has responded with impressive growth. In 2021, fluoropolymer sales for industrial sectors increased by 14% from 2020, thanks to a growth in its demand for processing equipment, pipes, and automotive wire and cable. With their superior performance characteristics, fluoropolymers have quickly carved out a share of the market , outpacing several traditional materials like metals and commodity thermoplastics.
During this period, Europe solidified its position as a prominent fluoropolymer producer, bolstered by advancements in polymerisation techniques and raw material sourcing. The European market is currently dominated by three fluoropolymer products: PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene), ETFE (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene), and FEP (Fluorinated ethylene-propylene), with PTFE expecting significant growth for its dielectric and chemical resistant properties as coatings for industrial pipes, and consumer electronics.
With fluoropolymers on the rise, let’s take a look at four of the biggest European industries that wouldn’t be the same without their fluorinated friends.
Let’s delve into the realm of European aerospace and the central role it plays in the global market. Europe stands tall as a significant participant in aviation manufacturing, contributing substantially to international exports. Yet each success is only made possible by the level of responsibility taken at the manufacturing level. Planes get hot; they move quickly and withstand tremendous pressure, from bumpy landings to high altitudes. This responsibility for smooth air travel falls largely on fluoropolymers, and they continue to excel at their job.
Fluoropolymers possess distinct attributes that help to enhance safety and fuel efficiency for aircraft. Through their robust and effective defence against heat, aggressive fluids, fuels, humidity, vibrations, and compression, fluoropolymers substantially prolong the operational lifespan of vital components. These areas are integral for maintaining optimal performance, controlling emissions, and upholding safety standards within the aerospace domain.
Fluorinated products such as Fluon® PFA help protect vital electronics and exposed parts from changing air temperatures during travel, with its excellent thermal and chemical resistance. Consumables such as aircraft release film—used most often in areas exposed to corrosion and varying temperatures—benefit from PFA’s remarkable heat resistance, chemical resilience, optical transparency, and non-adhesiveness.
Fluon® ETFE is another key ingredient to many of Europe’s high-flying successes. A physically tough, thermal resistant polymer; ETFE can be found throughout most onboard aircraft processes, protecting vital electronic systems with thermal insulation and superior tensile strength. Fluon® ETFE is also valuable outside the aircraft, with impressive thermal and chemical resistance making the polymer a significant addition to wing design, landing gear, fuel systems , and carbon fibre-reinforced plastic components.
Fluoropolymer Aerospace Applications – Did You Know?
• Fuel lines and hoses
• Seals and gaskets
• Electronic systems
• Wire and cable coatings
• Satellite propulsion systems
• Exterior surface coatings
The significance of Europe’s aerospace market and the exceptional properties of fluoropolymers paint a vivid picture of innovation and progress within the aerospace sector across the globe. Fluoropolymers enable aviation to reach greater heights of efficiency, safety, and connectivity!
Did you know your computer contains fluoropolymers? They play a vital role in Europe’s market for electronics, enhancing performance, dependability, and longevity of ever-shrinking microprocessors, semiconductors, and other electrical components.
Fluorinated products such as Fluon® PFA and ETFE elevate the safety and reliability of cables, particularly those enabling data transmission. Fluoropolymers’ excellent dielectric attributes, elevated heat stability, and fire resistance are instrumental to electronic applications such as information and communication technology, industrial, automotive, medical imaging, and more.
Semiconductors are integral to millions of increasingly compact products. The processes found in semiconductor manufacture involve the use of harsh chemicals that only fluoropolymers can withstand. The exceptional chemical resistance of AFLAS® FFKM ensures the manufacturing processes remain free from metal contamination. Since even the smallest of impurities can greatly disrupt production, using fluoropolymers in semiconductor and microprocessor manufacturing is paramount to the market’s continued success. They cater to the demands of ever-evolving design intricacies and the trend towards miniaturisation, spanning a diverse array of electronic gadgets and the interconnected data exchange between them.
Fluoropolymers have been instrumental in enabling breakthroughs in shrinking microprocessor wafer dimensions , reducing the size of the semiconductor nodes , and enhancing processing efficiencies for IoT (Internet of Things) devices. Their exceptional dielectric properties align seamlessly with the exacting demands of high-volume data transfer and fire safety protocols in data centres, including cloud facilities.
Fluoropolymer Electronic Applications – Did You Know?
• Semiconductor part cushioning, packaging, and release film
• Electronic infrastructure: pipes, vessels, valves, pumps, seals
• Printed circuit boards
• VDUs and touch screens
• Anti-drip, non-adhesive additives for electronic devices
• Wires and cables for high volume data transmission
Fluoropolymers provide the utmost safety in electronics manufacture, protecting vital circuit board and wire components from hazardous conditions and ensuring safer use for consumers. As electronics become smaller and more powerful, fluorinated solutions are essential to the future of Industry 4.0 and expanding the technology revolution.
Fluoropolymers play a vital role in the medical sector, helping to enhance medical equipment, improving the performance and lifespan of surgically implantable devices, catheters, guide wires, filters, and pumps.
These benefits reduce the need for expensive and hard to find replacements and reduce the risk of further injury or medical component failure. Ultimately, fluoropolymers can minimise medical complications for surgeons and reduce discomfort for patients. The possibility for viral infections and blockages to occur from contact with medical equipment is also greatly reduced. This is because fluoropolymers pose no adverse effects on human health; clinical studies on medical devices incorporating fluoropolymers have shown no carcinogenic or harmful impact to reproductive and endocrine systems.
In addition to their use in crucial medical devices, fluoropolymers are also employed to prevent contamination of drugs and other sensitive substances. These highly versatile substances cater to diverse medical requirements due to their porous and open structure that supports tissue growth. Their presence in tubing is particularly essential for preventing contamination. Fluon® PTFE offers impressive non-stick properties that allows liquid and wire to flow freely through tubes, and vice versa, allows implantable tubes and cables to flow smoothly without chemical or biological reactions.
Fluoropolymer Medical Applications – Did You Know?
• Medical device implants
• Heart patches
• Diaphragm pumps
• Filter membranes
• Medical imaging and analysis
• Sterile container filters
• Medical equipment components: needle retrieval systems, catheter guide wire, valves, fittings, pumps, and tubing
Fluoropolymers serve as pivotal catalysts in the advancement of novel medical technologies for the European market, driving continuous enhancements in public health and medical innovation.
If they can help improve our health, then they can help improve the environment! Europe stands as a frontrunner in the advancement and application of renewable energy, showcasing an unwavering commitment to the EU’s goals of a net-zero, sustainable future. The continent takes a leading stance in both solar cell and wind energy sectors. Countries like France and Germany have also gained global prominence in the realm of geothermal energy innovation.
Fluoropolymers emerge as indispensable tools within the European Green Deal, a comprehensive initiative spanning industry 4.0, carbon neutrality, and sustainable industry. These versatile materials find their application in diverse segments of renewable energy installations, including crucial components like hydrogen systems and solar cell panels.
The capacity of installed solar cell and wind energy systems is in rapid ascent. Fluoropolymers are helping to combat this sudden demand by providing ion exchange membranes for hydrogen storage mechanisms such as PEM fuel cells and redox-flow batteries. These fuel cells are a key element for achieving ambitious targets in renewable hydrogen within the EU energy framework. A very small amount of FORBLUE™ S-SERIES membrane can help to generate an impressive quantity of hydrogen gas. The membranes’ exceptional ion exchange capacity shows very low resistance with high ion selectivity and remains durable and flexible thanks to integrated PTFE fabric. This also provides high resistance to both chemicals & acids.
Fluoropolymer Green Energy Applications – Did You Know?
• Solar cell front sheets: Weather and UV resistance, light transmission, fire resistance
• Solar cell back sheets: Electrical insulation, weather and chemical resistance
• Wind turbine coatings
• Wind turbine release film
• Fuel cells and ionomer membranes
• Battery binders: Chemical, thermal and oxidation resistance for short and long-term energy storage
From fulfilling the mandates of the European Green Deal to the implementation of the Strategic Action Plan for Batteries, fluoropolymers hold a pivotal role in facilitating the transition towards an integrated and decarbonized energy landscape within the EU, while expanding the possibilities for future green energy solutions.
Important Qualities of Fluoropolymers in Europe
As we’ve outlined, fluoropolymers are everywhere, and involved in multiple supply chain processes found across a diverse market of leading European industries. It’s clear that the importance of fluorinated products is undeniable, and their effectiveness at reducing risk of failure while providing unparalleled service to advancing the fourth industrial revolution, is a catalyst for these markets to continue expanding.
Across the largest markets in Europe, fluoropolymers offer versatile benefits for every application, including:
• Thermal stability and extreme temperature resistance
• Hazardous chemical and corrosion resistance
• Dielectric properties
• Strength and flexibility
• Ultraviolet protection
• Non-stick and chemically inert
• Low maintenance costs
• Lifetime durability