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How to Select the Right Plasticizer for Polymers?

Michael Schiller – Nov 15, 2019

Plasticizers are the major functional additives transforming the physical properties of polymers such as PVC, PU, acrylic, nitrile and rubbers to create a whole world of flexible and durable finished articles for high demanding applications.

The world plasticizer consumption was around 7.82 million MT in 2017, up nearly 25% over 6 years[2].

  • Ceresana forecasts that global demand for all plasticizers will increase to about 9.75 million MT in 2024[3].
  • Over 90% of the plasticizers are consumed in flexible PVC applications[10].
  • China is the single largest plasticizer market in the world, followed by other Asian region, Europe and North America.

The figure below shows the global plasticizer consumption by region in 2017[2].
Global Plasticizer Consumption by Regions in 2017
Global Plasticizer Consumption in 1000 MT by Region in 2017[2]

Plasticizers are additives that increase the flexibility, extensibility, and workability of some plastic materials like PVC. These plasticizers are either liquids with low volatility or solids. They decrease the attraction between polymer chains, increasing the flexibility of the plastic material.


What are the Requirements for Plasticizers?


Plasticizers have to meet several requirements mentioned below.

  • First and most important, they need to be compatible and permanent to stay durably in the final article.
  • Plasticizers also need to withstand heat and shear during processing and sustain severe aging conditions.
  • Mixing plasticizers with PVC and processing the blend need to be cost-effective as well.
  • Plasticizers act as processing aid and need to be suited to various conversion processes like extrusion, calendaring, dipping, spread coating, etc.
  • Long shelf life and durability over harsh aging conditions (UV resistance, migration and extraction resistance) are key attributes to consider when selecting a plasticizer.
  • Finally, plasticizers need to meet specific industry requirements (e.g., cable rating, automotive specifications) or specific approvals (such as toys, food and medical)[4].

 »  Continue reading about the types of plasticizers, along with its requirements, regulations, and sustainability. Also, get tips to choose the right plasticizer for your application and learn the effects of plasticizer during processing & on the final product!

3 Comments on "How to Select the Right Plasticizer for Polymers?"
PAYAL A Jan 9, 2020
Dear Leonardo, please feel free to explore the in-depth guide on plasticizer selection. It features detailed information on various plasticizer classes (phthalates, benzoates, adipates, etc.) to assist in the selection process. https://polymer-additives.specialchem.com/selection-guide/plasticizers
Leonardo M Dec 20, 2019
Mostly useless. Pretty much everyone in the pvc industry already knows about how great phthalates are, and is looking for a reasonably detailed guide to the *other* plasticizer types, which they are increasingly forced to use by customer and regulatory pressure. Such a guide doesn't really exist, as even specialized textbooks mostly ramble about the Golden Days of free DOP. This guide goes one step beyond by trying to put o-phthalates, which are mostly regulated, in the same basket as terephthalates, which are largely free for use. In the process, they obscure the usage share of terephthalates, making the graphics, the most honest part of the presentation, largely useless as well.
Frank B Nov 20, 2019
Excellent market overview and clear analysis. The article demystifies the choices the industry has and takes out misconceptions. Author clearly knows what he's talking about.

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