Thursday, 31 October 2019

Fluoropolymers As Enabler For Megatrends: From Resource Efficiency To Digitalization

The world of fluoropolymers is versatile and fluoropolymers can be seen as an enabler to support the realization of the so-called megatrends. This is the main topic of this blog post.

The base of fluoropolymers are monomers such as tetrafluoroethylene (TFE), hexafluoropropylene (HFP), and vinylidene fluoride (VDF) which can be synthesized from the raw material fluorspar. Using the monomers, polymerization to polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE), polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), and fluorinated ethylene-propylene (FEP) can be done.

In 2015, 270,000 metric tons of fluoropolymers were consumed worldwide. Altogether, the world of fluoropolymers can be divided into three major pillars: PTFE, fluorothermoplastics, and fluoroelastomers. PTFE represents with 140,000 metric tons the largest part (52%), followed by PVDF with 41,000 metric tons (15%) and on third place is FEP with 22,500 metric tons (8%). Smaller positions are occupied by ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene copolymer (ETFE), 8,400 metric tons (3%), and fluoroelastomers (FKM), which account for 31,000 metric tons (12%).

There are several megatrends which result in economic, social, and environmental shifts. Understanding megatrends and how to incorporate fluoropolymers as a material enabler will result in better allover results in the long run. Following, are some examples on how fluoropolymers can support to solve challenges ahead of us.

Resource limitation: a major topic in chemical industry is the extension of a plant’s lifetime. Using fluoropolymers for corrosion protection, especially in reactor-, mounting-, and pipelining can be seen as positive step to battle this challenge. Going further, you can design even an all-fluoropolymer reactor to increase the productivity of your reaction. Plastics industry is also investigating ways of up-cycling end-of-life products, including but not limited to fluoropolymers.

Digitalization: data transfer and data storage are major topics in the internet of things (IoT). We want to have smaller overall designs and improved performance of high frequency components. Using fully fluorinated polymers, better insulation with thinner insulation layers at higher frequencies is possible. Furthermore, non-flammable indoor high frequency (LAN) cables are needed and those cables take advantage of the flame retardant property of fluorine chemistry.

Transport changes: in automotive, we have more stringent CO2 reduction needs (Euro Six Norm) combined with reduced consumption of gasoline. Therefore, more sensors are placed on several positions in the exhaust gas flow. Using fluoroelastomers as sealing materials allows us to have a compression set at temperatures up to 280°C, which guarantees proper sealing of the sensor housings. In the field of car electrification, PVDF is a key enabler in battery technology. PVDF is used as cathode binder, separator coating, and anode binder. PFA and FKM can be used as cell gasket sealing materials as well.

Aging population: there will be increasing demand for medical devices and fluoropolymers can provide chemical stable components for dialysis devices. Also, endoscopic surgery equipment is made from fluoropolymers. This ensures proper resistance to the sterilization process. Furthermore, in emerging regions such as BRIC states, cooking devices such as rice cookers, frying pans and bakeware use non-stick coatings, driving demand for fluoropolymers in this area too.

In conclusion, fluoropolymers have established themselves in many applications and will be a major material enabler for the megatrend challenges ahead of us.

I published also are more general fluoropolymer post which you can check out here.

Thanks for reading & till next time!

Herwig Juster

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[1] Kunststoffe International 10/2016

Sunday, 27 October 2019

My Material Insights From The K Fair 2019

In the past two weeks in October the famous K Fair, the world’s number 1 fair for plastics and rubber took place in Düsseldorf, Germany.
I visited the K fair too and in this blog post I highlight the new material developments and launches of the major plastic manufacturers including new compounds as well.

Let’s start in alphabetic order:

Akro Plastic:
Akro Plastic presented new PPA compounds based on homopolymer 9T (Akromid T9). This 9T based PPA has lower water absorption in comparison with PA 6T.
Furthermore, it shows a better flowability and faster crystallization. In addition, they presented with Akromid B28 LGF40 a long glass fiber product which chemically couples PA6 and PP to a blend which enables better flow compared to pure PA 6. It has a higher conditioned strength compared to PA 6 glass fiber 50% compound.

BASF highlighted aside of electrification of automotive industry also the fuel cell powertrain as a future mobility concept. They showed a media distribution system which was a joint project with Joma-Polytec GmbH and Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell GmbH. BASF developed two tailor-made PA 6.6, i.e. Ultramid® A3WG10 CR and A3EG7 EQ. These grades are used now to make anode- and cathode-end plates in the fuel cell stack. Here, the purity of the material is extremely important, especially in the media distribution plate and water separator unit, where materials are exposed to cooling water, air and hydrogen.
Apart of fuel cells, BASF showed their advances in the so-called ChemCycling project, which aims at utilizing the pyrolysis oil obtained from mixed plastic waste for new polymer generation. As a result, they have now Ultramid® B3WG6 Cycled Black 00564. The latter can be used for front-end carriers in automotive.

Borealis introduced their new plastics recycling technology called Borcycle. The major grade named Borcycle MF1981SY, filled with 10% talc, contains more than 80% recycled polyolefins. Visible appliance applications are in the focus of use for this material. Borcycle claims to fulfill the stiffness and impact requirements needed in such applications.

DSM launched bio-based grades of their Arnitel® thermoplastic copolyester (TPC) and Stanyl® PA 4.6, which use 25-42% bio-based feedstock. Bio-based Stanyl® grades have already the globally recognized sustainability certification ISCC Plus.
Furthermore, DSM offers now Akulon RePurposed PA. This polyamide contains recycled nylon-based fish nets.

DuPont presented their Zytel long chain nylon 6.12 for blow moulded cooling pipes. It is a technology that can be transferred to electric cars and gains traction there.

EMS Chemie:
EMS presented their new grades of Grilamid TR: XE 11248 and FE 11292. These are both transparent high-performance polyamides especially developed for the medical application market. Grilamid TR XE 11248 has high flexural strength and improved alcohol resistance. Grilamid TR FE 11292 can be sterilized with steam over hundreds of cycles and can be used in combination with silicon (LSR).
Further highlight was the use of Grivory G5V and Grivory HT6 for advanced metal replacement. Grivory HT6 shows a 50% higher stiffness at 140°C compared to standard PPA.

Evonik increases their Vestamid® PA 12 capacity by over 50% between 2019 and 2021, which shows the commitment to capture more market, especially in the automotive tubing market.

Lanxess communicated that it is collaborating with artificial intelligence company Citrine Information to apply AI in the development of customized plastics. They see glass fiber sizing customization a way to cut down the time to market. For high voltage connectors in electric vehicles, Lanxess offers now UL yellow card certified orange (RAL 2003) PA and PBT compounds.

Polyplastics presented their new Durafide® PPS grade entitled 6150T73 which has outstanding heat shock resistance and high mouldability. This grade addresses the need of having resins which can be used for overmoulding metal parts in automotive power control units (mainly electric cars) and withstand harsh automotive environments (-40°C/ +150°C). Furthermore, they introduced WW-09, which is a new Duracom® POM grade. It combines high strength with good creep and sliding properties.

Sabic unveiled their Lexan® polycarbonate based on certified renewable feedstock. PC is part of their Trucircle circular solution and allows customers to reduce CO2 emissions.

Solvay launched a new high Tg PEEK called Ketaspire® PEEK XT. Solvay belongs to the group of material suppliers bringing a new polymer to the market place. It has exceptional chemical resistance with a 20°C higher glass transition temperature compared to standard PEEK. There are already polyketones which have a similar high Tg, however their chemical resistance is lower than the Ketaspire® XT. The XT portfolio covers neat resins (XT-920), glass fiber reinforced compounds (XT-920 GF30), and carbon-fiber reinforced compounds (XT-920 CF30).
Additionally, Solvay launched a PPA-based unidirectional (UD) thermoplastic carbon fiber-based tape to accelerate thermoplastic composite developments in automotive industry.
Their third launch was the new long glass fiber portfolio called Xencor™, which covers PA 6.6., HPPA, PPA, PARA, and PPS long glass fiber products. Xencor™ polyarylamide PARA was selected by Monaco-based Stajvelo to make an all-polymer electric bike. The material fulfills the high structural, mechanical, and aesthetic requirements.

Victrex presented their Victrex HPG™ Gear solutions for powertrain applications. These have good NVH and durability performance. In addition, they announced that their manufacturing facility in Grantsburg, USA, received the IATF 16949 certification. This certification proves that all capabilities are in line with Tier-1 and OEM needs.

What were your experiences on the K fair?

Thanks for reading & till next time!

Herwig Juster

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Monday, 7 October 2019

Polymer Chemistry meets A.I. – Finding and Developing New Polymers with Target Properties in the 21st Century

The thermal conductivity of polymers is a key material property concerning applications such as vehicles electrification (e.g. traction motors and battery modules), communication devices as well as electronics. For instances, implementing a 5G communication standard requires antennas and associated parts being able to sink heat.

While making my research in this context, I came across a publication of Mr. Wu and his team from the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan. In their Nature publication entitled “Machine-learning-assisted discovery of polymers with high thermal conductivity using a molecular design algorithm”, they report on the use of big data analytics for the purpose of discovering new compounds and polymers. Their research targeted, in particular, the finding of a higher thermal conductivity Polyimide (PI). PI is often used in communication and sensor devices. For this, machine learning was applied, i.e. computers were allowed to learn from a given data set. In a first step, training of the algorithm is done in the given database. In a next step the trained application looks into a real world database containing several thousand of polymers to find PI and/or other compounds and/or combinations thereof which can fulfill the target requirements. Identification of more than thousand “virtual” polymers could be achieved by applying this methodology. In a next step, the three most promising polymers were selected out of the big pool with the underlying boundary condition of easy synthesis and processing. In the end, all suggested polymers were polyamides: a wholly aromatic polyamide (Figure 1a), an aromatic polyhydrazide (Figure 1b), and an aliphatic–aromatic polyamide (Figure 1c).

Figure 1: Resulting polymers of the molecular design study using machine learning and AI [2].

The suggested polymers were synthesized, cast into films and their thermal conductivities were tested. Commercial PI polymer such as Kapton® (PMDA/ODA*), UPILEX-S (BPDA/p-PDA*1) and UPILEX-R (BPDA/ODA*2) were similarly tested as well. The newly suggested polymers exhibited thermal conductivities up to 0.41 W/mK, 2x higher than their commercial PI counterparts whose thermal conductivities ranged from 0.19 to 0.21 W/mK. Previously, these values have only been reached by adding fillers such as boron nitrides to commercial PI’s.

Mr. Wu has shown that the use of machine learning and AI combined and big data analytics can be a very efficient and effective tool for materials design. Polymer chemists and data science work together hand in hand expanding the landscape of how to carry out research in the 21st century.

Thank you for reading!
Best regards,
Herwig Juster

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[2] S. Wu et al.: Machine-learning-assisted discovery of polymers with high thermal conductivity using a molecular design algorithm (
* pyromellitic dianhydride and 4,4 –oxydianiline
*1 3, 3, 4, 4 -biphenyltetracarboxylic dianhydride and p-phenylenediamine
*2 3, 3, 4, 4 -biphenyltetracarboxylic dianhydride and 4,4 –oxydianiline