Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a common fluoropolymer used in a wide range of industries, such as oil and gas, chemical processing, industrial, electrical/electronic, construction, medical, consumer cookware and more. Among its many desirable properties, PTFE provides exceptional chemical resistance, low coefficient of friction, good resistance to heat and low temperature, and good electrical insulating power in hot and wet environments. These properties make it especially useful in the coatings industry for applications such as can, coil, and graphic arts.
While not directly regulated at this time, PTFE is being impacted by new regulations on perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). That’s because the irradiation process in creating PTFE in small particle sizes for the coatings industry has been demonstrated to create PFOA. Therefore, traditional PTFE will need to be replaced with low-PFOA containing PTFE or PTFE-free alternatives using new low-PFOA PVDF or PVDF-free resins.
PFOA and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFASs) have come under ever-more oversight with growing public and political concern. PFOA is a substance of high concern around the world because it is a persistent organic pollutant based on its ubiquitous, persistent, bioaccumulative and reprotoxic nature.
Because of its classification as a persistent organic pollutant, many countries and the entire European Union have created new legislation to limit PFOA exposure to people1. The EU legislation begins in earnest July 4, and will be moving to Japan shortly after and to the United States in a matter of time.
Within this new regulatory environment, coating formulators and manufacturers need to be prepared to adapt their coatings technologies to be compliant. EU legislation requires that no manufacturer can have a process or put into market any product that has more than 25 parts per billion (ppb) PFOA.
Impact on Coatings
The most immediate impact and challenges will be felt in the can and coil industries, where PTFE is used extensively. Food and beverage cans use PTFE to protect cans from damage on high speed lines and from rusting, and to protect the can liner from acid in the food or drink inside the can. PTFE is used to protect coiled metal when it’s being fabricated into an end product (siding, for example). Without PTFE, fabrication would leave marks on the end product by breaking the top surface of the coating. PTFE is also used in printing applications where customers want to protect their labels through the rigors of the supply chain until they reach their destination. In industrial applications (tools, lawnmowers, etc.), PTFE is used to give texture to powder coatings and protect surfaces from damage.
The Role of Surface Modifiers
Surface modifiers play an important role in replacing traditional PTFE with low-PFOA containing PTFE or PTFE-free alternatives to meet the technical challenges of reducing or removing PFOA from customer products in multiple ways. PTFE-free surface modifiers have been developed using new and alternative raw materials that are functionally similar to PTFE.
Lubrizol can help customers meet the technical challenges of reducing or removing PFOA from customer products. We have already commercialized several reformulated surface modifiers to achieve low-PFOA PTFE content and commercialized new low-PFOA containing PTFE products that all still deliver exceptional performance results. And, we continue to invest in the development of this environmentally friendly technology.
For the can and coil industries, Lanco™ 2510 SF, Lanco™ 2520 SF, Lanco™ 2520 EF, and Lanco™ Glidd branded liquid products such as Lanco™ Glidd 7607 and Lanco™ Glidd 7610 are examples of PTFE-free surface modifiers as functional alternatives that significantly improve scratch and abrasion resistance while reducing coefficient of friction comparable to traditional PTFE-based wax additives.
As these regulations continue to affect other applications and chemistries our Solsperse™ Hyperdispersants can help formulations of polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) resins where the viscosity results from pigment dispersions are not the same as they had been using traditional PFOA containing formulas.
Through discussions with customers and through our own experience, Lubrizol expects “PTFE-free” to continue being a growing trend as more regulations on PFASs are expected and potential regulations on PTFE will likely follow. Will you be ready?
Contact your Lubrizol account manager or visit go.lubrizol.com/ptfe-free to explore how to achieve low-PFOA and PTFE-free products so you can be regulation ready.
1One caveat is the Stockholm Convention. This group has identified PFOA as a persistent organic pollutant. However, they are ruling soon on the permitted levels of PFOA. Instead of 25 ppb, if the product is made by a process that is low energy and generates more than 25 ppb but less than 1000 ppb, it can be used. To be safe when developing new products, it’s probably best to stay under 25 ppb in case regulations change in the future.