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Application of Plasticizers in Polymers

Why should plasticizers be used?

Plasticizers act like a lubricant among polymer chains to reduce rigidity. Without them, synthetic polymer materials would be too brittle and stiff for any practical purpose. In addition, plasticizers make polymer materials elastic, expandable, flexible, and malleable at low temperatures. Therefore, in most cases, polymer products can only be produced on a commercial basis by integrating plasticizers. Plasticizers are used in many different polymer materials, and almost every type of polymer has one or more plasticizers added to it.

Applications

Plasticizers are used in a wide variety of polymer materials, including not only polyvinyl chloride (PVC), rubber, adhesives, and cellulose, but also resins, medical devices, cables, etc. So far, PVC accounts for 80-90% of global plasticizer consumption. Therefore, we take PVC as an example to make relevant explanation. Flexible PVC is found in the following main applications: automotive parts, wire and cable, flooring, and extruded and molded.

Automotive parts

The average car has today more than 1000 plastic parts and roughly 12% of them are made of soft PVC. Plasticized PVC is critical to improving vehicle performance and reducing accidental injuries. Plasticized PVC has doubled the life of modern cars through the use of protective underbody coatings. Fabrics coated with plasticized PVC are often used as life-saving airbags to reduce impact damage and save the lives of drivers and passengers.

Automotive parts

Wire and cable

Plasticizers make PVC bendable and soft, essential to produce wires and cables. With electrical cables, plasticizer selection is dependent upon the performance specifications of the insulation material and the jacketing. Higher temperature-rated products require more permanent plasticizers, while lower temperature-rated materials can use general purpose plasticizers.

Wire and cable

Flooring

Plasticized PVC floors can be found everywhere in daily life. Most PVC floors are prepared by coating a substrate with various layers of plastisols. Traditionally, these products use a mixture of plasticizers, such as C7 to C9 phthalate esters, and are often found in blends with faster fusing plasticizers such as butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP) or dibenzoate. In recent years, much of this market has converted to di-2-ethylhexyl terephthalate (DEHTP) or DEHTP blends with dibenzoate or dibutylterephthalate. PVC floors can last for up to 20 years of intensive use. Over this period, plasticizers guarantee the application’s flexibility.

Flooring

Extruded and molded

Many molded and extruded products are prepared from general purpose plasticizers with diisononyl phthalate (DINP) offering the best compromise between price and performance. Products designed for outdoor applications will often use more permanent plasticizers such as diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) or di(2-propylheptyl) phthalate (DPHP). Many medical devices continue to use di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) because of its very long history of safe use and product approvals.

Extruded and molded

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