Thermosets market size is likely to exceed 102 million tons by 2016. Key materials include phenol formaldehyde (PF), epoxy/polyexpoxide resins, UPR (unsaturated polyester resins) and polyurethanes (PU). Recycling of these materials can be done through techniques such as mechanical, feedstock and energy recovery.
Asia Pacific thermoset market size was the largest and is also expected to witness highest gains at over 11% up to 2023 owing to growth of end-use industries such as automobile and construction. North America is expected to witness significant gains at over 10% from 2016 to 2023 owing to government regulations over automobile weight reduction by 2020.
Growing awareness towards reducing dependency on depleting fossil fuels for polymer/plastic production is likely to drive recyclable thermosets market growth. This technology also provides opportunities to curb carbon emissions and reduce the quantities of waste required for disposal. It can prevent the accumulating of substantial quantities of discarded plastics as debris in natural habitats and landfills. Recyclable thermosets market price trend should also play a prominent role in industry dynamics.
Two new recyclable thermosets have been developed at the U.S. based IBM Almaden Research Centre, namely hemiaminal dynamic covalent networks (HDCNs) and polyhexahydotriazines (PHT), which represents highly cross-linked polymer networks. On the other hand, nitrogen based thermosets such as polyamides and polybenzimidazoles are used in numerous industrial applications such as adhesives & coatings, electronic devices, aerospace & automotive parts and foams owing to high durability and mechanical strength.
Despite their widespread commercial use, these aforementioned polymers are difficult to recycle and reuse. There has also been a little success in design & synthesis of new thermosets owing to challenging production technology. Also, existing products are difficult to rework or recycle as they can’t get remolded once cured and they thermally get decomposed on heating at high temperatures.
HDCNs exhibit versatile properties such as chemically robust materials and high strengths which depend upon diamine monomer added during polymerization process.Also, a specific class of HDCNs prepared from 4,4-oxydianiline (ODA) undergoes chemical rearrangement when heated to close to 200°C to form second class of recyclable thermosets, PHT.
PHT has exceptional Young’s modulus combined with chemical reaction reversibility in strong acidic conditions makes it an exceptional class of materials. Most of the high-modulus materials are chemically inert but are often difficult to recycle. PHTs exhibits high stability towards organic solvents and could be used in conditions where solvent-resistant and robust materials are required. They can also be used where resistance to catastrophic failure from environmental stress cracking is required.
Acid based reversibility of PHTs allows it to become the first class of easily recyclable thermosets market. Ability to completely depolymerize PHT opens up new avenues of applications such as recyclable or reworkable encapsulates which are explored widely for high value components recovery like microelectronics. This factor can represent cost savings in numerous high value applications where as single component defect can result in entire part or material being scrapped. The complexity of earlier materials makes the component difficult to repair by preventing their removal.
End-use industries such as automobiles, aerospace and electronics can benefit from PHT usage in manufacturing devices and parts owing to recyclability, strength, solvent resistance and lightweight structure.
Automobile industry could benefit to build lightweight vehicle which are useful in improving fuel efficiency and curbing carbon emissions. Countries such as China, India, Indonesia and Thailand are likely to scale up automobile production capacity owing to population expansion and rise in spending capacity. Introduction of new vehicles by substituting metal parts with plastic components is new trend in the industry which can provide new growth opportunities for recyclable thermosets market. PHT can be used in automobile applications such as hoods, exterior trims and panels.
Aerospace industry can use PHT for development of tails and wings used for both, personal and commercial aircraft. PHT, combined with PHA, could be used for adhering aircraft pieces exposed to high speeds and harsh environmental conditions. Semiconductor industry could use it making transistors and chips. This would help the manufacturers to rework on defective electronics rather than scraping the equipment.
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