Polyester is a category of polymers which contain the ester functional group in their main chain. Although there are many polyesters, the term "polyester" as a specific material most commonly refers to polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Polyesters include naturally-occurring chemicals, such as in the cutin of plant cuticles, as well as synthetics such as polycarbonate and polybutyrate.
Polyesters may be produced in numerous forms such as fibers, sheets and three-dimensional shapes. Polyesters as thermoplastics may change shape after the application of heat. While combustible at high temperatures, polyesters tend to shrink away from flames and self-extinguish upon ignition. Polyester fibers have high tenacity and E-modulus as well as low water absorption and minimal shrinkage in comparison with other industrial fibers.
Woven polyester fabrics are used in consumer apparel and home furnishings such as bed sheets, bedspreads, curtains and draperies. Similarly, industrial polyesters are used in tyre reinforcements, ropes, fabrics for conveyor belts, safety belts, coated fabrics and plastic reinforcements with high energy absorption. Polyester fiberfills are also used to stuff pillows, comforters and cushion padding.
Polyester fabrics are claimed to have a "less natural" feel when compared to similarly-woven fabrics made from natural fibers (i.e. cotton in textile uses). However, polyester fabrics may exhibit other advantages over natural fabrics, such as improved wrinkle resistance. As a result, polyester fibers are sometimes spun together with natural fibers to produce a cloth with blended properties.
Liquid crystalline polyesters are among the first industrially-used liquid crystalline polymers. They are used for their mechanical properties and heat-resistance. These traits also important in their application as an abradable seal in jet engines.
Thermosetting polyesters are used as casting materials, and chemosetting polyester resins are used as fiberglass laminating resins and non-metallic auto-body fillers. Fiberglass-reinforced unsaturated polyesters find wide application in bodies of yachts and as body parts of cars.
Polyesters are also widely used as a finish on high-quality wood products such as guitars, pianos and vehicle / yacht interiors. Burns Guitars, Rolls Royce and Sunseeker are a few companies that use polyesters to finish their products. Thixotropic properties of spray-applicable polyesters make them ideal for use on open-grain timbers, as they can quickly fill wood grain, with a high-build film thickness per coat. Cured polyesters can be sanded and polished to a high-gloss, durable finish.
The main raw materials are described as follows:
More information about polyester raw materials can be found for PTA ,DMT and MEG , at the webpage INCHEM "Chemical Safety Information from Intergovernmental Organizations".
To make a polymer of high molecular weight a catalyst is needed. The most common catalyst is antimony trioxide (or antimony tri acetate):
Antimony trioxide – ATO – CAS-No.: 1309-64-4 Synonym: non, mol weight: 291,51 Sum formula: Sb2O3
In 2008 about 10 000 t Sb2O3 were used to produce around 49 Mio t polyethylene terephthalate.
Polyester is described as follows:
Polyethylene Terephthalate CAS-No.: 25038-59-9 Synonym / abbreviations: polyester, PET, PES Sum Formula: H-[C10H8O4]-n=60-120 OH, mol unit weight: 192,17
There are several reasons for the importance of PTA:
In table 1 the estimated world polyester production for textile polyester, bottle polyester resin, film polyester mainly for packaging and specialty polyesters for engineering plastics, which are the main fields of application, can be seen. According to this table, the world's total polyester production might exceed 50 million tons per annum before the year 2010.
Table 1: World polyester production
|Market size per year|
|Product Type||2002 [Mio t/a]||2008 [Mio t/a]|
Large PTA producers are for instance BP, Reliance, Sinopec, SK-Chemicals, Mitsui and Eastman Chemicals. MEG production is in the hand of about 10 global players which are headed by MEGlobal a JV of DOW and PIC Kuweit followed by Sabic.
Among the world's largest polyester producers are the following companies:
Artenius, Advansa, DAK, DuPont, Eastman/Voridian, Hyosung, Huvis, Indorama, Invista, Jiangsu Hengli Chemical Fiber, Jiangsu Sanfangxian Industry, M&G Group, Mitsui, Mitsubishi, NanYa Plastics, Reichhold, Reliance, Rongsheng, Sabic, Teijin, Toray, Trevira, Tuntex, Wellman, Yizheng Sinopec, Zhejiang Hengi Polymerization. With more than 500 plants about half of the world production originates in that China. More information about polyester in China can be found under the web site of China Chemical Fiber Economic Information Network .
Table 2: Textile and packaging polyester application list
|POLYESTER-BASED POLYMER (MELT or PELLET)|
|Staple fiber (PSF)||Bottles for CSD, Water, Beer, Juice, Detergents|
|Filaments POY, DTY, FDY||A-PET Film|
|Technical yarn and tire cord||Thermoforming|
|Non-woven and spunbond||BO-PET Biaxial oriented Film|
Abbreviations: PSF = Polyester Staple Fiber; POY = Partially Oriented Yarn; DTY = Draw Textured Yarn; FDY = Fully Drawn Yarn; CSD = Carbonated Soft Drink; A-PET = Amorphous Polyester Film; BO-PET = Biaxial Oriented Polyester Film;
A comparable small market segment (<< 1 Million t/a) of polyester is used to produce engineering plastics and masterbatch.
In order to produce the polyester melt with a high efficiency, high-output processing steps like staple fiber (50–300 t/d per spinning line) or POY /FDY (up to 600 t/d split into about 10 spinning machines) are meanwhile more and more horizontal, integrated, direct processes. This means the polymer melt is directly converted into the textile fibers or filaments without the common step of pelletizing. We are talking about full horizontal integration when polyester is produced at one site starting from crude oil or distillation products in the chain oil -> benzene -> PX -> PTA -> PET melt -> fiber / filament or bottle-grade resin. Such integrated processes are meanwhile established in more or less interrupted processes at one production site. Eastman Chemicals introduced at first the idea to close the chain from PX to PET resin with their so-called INTEGREX® process. The capacity of such horizontal, integrated productions sites is >1000 t/d and can easily reach 2500 t/d.
Besides the above mentioned large processing units to produce staple fiber or yarns, there are ten thousands of small and very small processing plants, so that one can estimate that polyester is processed and recycled in more than 10 000 plants around the globe. This is without counting all the companies involved in the supply industry, beginning with engineering and processing machines and ending with special additives, stabilizers and colors. This is a gigantic industry complex and it is still growing by 4–8% per annum, depending on the world region. Useful information about the polyester industry can be found under where a “Who is Producing What in the Polyester Industry” is gradually being developed.
C - OCH3 + OH[Oligomer2]
C - O[Oligomer2] + CH3OH
|(ester-terminated oligomer + alcohol-terminated oligomer)||(larger oligomer + methanol)|