Speciality Polymers (Additives) – A Boon to the Polymer Industry

It would not be wrong if we compare the “additives added in polymers”with the spices we add in our daily food. No spices leads to tasteless food just like no additives lead to useless polymers.

In the continuous quest for easier processing, enhanced physical properties, better long-term performance and the need to respond to new environmental health regulations additives play an important role. Additives alone are responsible for the success of commercial plastics, rubbers, coatings and adhesives. Without additives, many polymers would simply be of limited use. The successful use of plastic materials in many applications, such as in the automotive industry, the electronics sector, the packaging and manufacturing of consumer goods, is only possible because of the incorporation of additives into neat (and recycled) resins. Polymer industry is impossible without additives.

A Speicality polymer additive is a chemical substance which is incorporated into plastics to achieve a technical effect in the finished product and is intended to be an essential part of the finished article. Additives may be either organic (e.g. alkyl phenols, hydroxybenzophenones), inorganic (e.g. oxides, salts, fillers) or organometallic (e.g. metallocarboxylates, Ni complexes, Zn accelerators). Some examples of additives are antioxidants, antistatic agents, antifogging agents, emulsifiers, fillers, impact modifiers, lubricants, plasticizers, release agents, stabilizers, thickeners and UV absorbers.

Applications nowadays are becoming more intricate than ever due to the competition level in market, intricacy in terms of design, properties, end use, handling, and appearance, all of these define the process and materials to be used. Now, additives for plastics which are used for special purpose are known as specialty additives. For example thermoplastic polymers, which are generally known to be recyclable but after recycling the material tends to lose its mechanical properties and hence make the polymer less/non re-usable. Specialty additive such as chain extenders have made thermoplastic polymers more reusable by compensating for the loss in mechanical properties during processing. Nowadays it is almost essential to use some modifier or the other during compounding or any other polymer processing technique.

Functionally modified polymers are one of the important class of specialty additives used in compounding of polymers.  These are polyolefin based materials which are functionalized using chemicals like MAH (maleic anhydride) or GMA (glycidyl methacrylate) using a process known as “Grafting” which is done by “reactive extrusion” technique. These have proved to be important additives in enhancing performance of commodity polymers, bringing them closer to performanceof engineering plastics.  Glass filled PP using such additives like OPTIM™ from Pluss® is a classical example of a commodity polymer PP being used in many white goods applications where hitherto engineering plastics like polyamides or polyesters were used.

Some Application areas for functionalized polymeric additives include:

  • Chain extender in PET (polyethylene terepthalate) recycling
  • Compatibilzer in PP-Nylon blend for automotive use
  • Low temperature Impact modifiers for Nylon compounds
  • Coupling agent in PP (polypropylene) filled compounds,
  • Coupling agent in Wood Plastics composites

Pluss® has developed these products indigenously.  They are being manufactured and marketed under brand names OPTIM™- coupling agent and impact modifiers series for thermoplastic compounding; Novis – Flow enhancer in PP compound forintricate and thin wall mouldings; Optipet- as chain extender for reprocessed polyesters and polyamides. These products offer cost advantage over imported products available.

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