The polymerization of propene results in the formation of polypropylene (PP), a thermoplastic polymer considered to be one of the most versatile plastics available commercially. Polypropylene is easily recyclable by heating it to its melting point and shaping it into the desired form. The second most-widely produced commodity plastic after polyethylene is polypropylene.
Apart from being a thermoplastic polymer, a variety of properties of polypropylene have led to its popularity and capability of being a suitable replacement of glass, metals and other polymers. PP has low density making it lightweight, heat resistant, steam barrier capable, chemically inert, easy to weld and stretchable. Polypropylene also has good impact and rigidity balance, good transparency and high stiffness. It can also be colored easily without damage to the quality of the plastic.
Applications Of Polypropylene
Based on the characteristics of polypropylene, it is used across a variety of industries, such as packaging, automotive, athletic wear, carpeting, laboratory equipment, furniture, toys, and electrical and electronics. A majority of plastic moldings and living hinges are made of PP as it is resistant to fatigue, freezing, and impact, forming complex shapes at comparatively low costs and high volumes.
The light-weight and recyclable properties of polypropylene make it a popular choice for automobile parts, dashboards, and car batteries. Polypropylene is food safe, and therefore an ideal choice for packaging in the food and beverages industry, and does not melt during the packing process. A major polymer in nonwovens, polypropylene can be treated to absorb water, making it an ideal choice for sanitary products, diapers and athletic clothing that absorbs sweat easily.
The global polypropylene market is expected to reach a value of $115 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 5 percent. The market size is expected to grow at a higher rate in Asia, as compared to the US and Europe. North America, Asia, and MEA are the top suppliers of polypropylene, while Asia is the top buyer, followed by North America, EU, and MEA at a medium level. The supply deficit is estimated to increase across LATAM and Europe, while China is moving towards self-sufficiency.
The key driving end-use industries can be identified as the CPF segment of containers, caps/closures, films and auto components such as internal structures, bumpers, and dashboard carriers, led by an increase in disposable incomes in developing nations. The demand is higher for injection moldings of PP, and for polypropylene in the form of films and fibers. Polypropylene demand is high in developed nations for consumer products and in developing economies for industrial equipment.
The petrochemical feedstock for propylene is propene, the production of which is integrated with the global hydrocarbon industry and affected by volatile oil and natural gas prices, thereby affecting the prices of propylene.
In many countries, environmental regulations against the use of plastics due to their impact on the environment also hamper the growth of the polypropylene market. While polypropylene is recyclable, the production process and by-products generated are considered to be harmful to the environment.
The myriad properties of polypropylene have made it a versatile plastic used in multiple industries across the world ranging from packaging to automotive. Polypropylene is heat resistant, durable, resistant to chemicals, light-weight, and supports additions. Further applications of polypropylene are likely to be developed, increasing its usefulness.