Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) exists both as an amorphous (transparent) and a semi-crystalline (opaque and white) thermoplastic, and can be made into either a resin, fibre or film. The semi-crystalline PET has good strength, ductility, stiffness and hardness while the amorphous PET has better ductility.
The largest outlet for PET is for the production of synthetic fibres with bottle resin production the next largest application. In textile applications, PET is often referred to as ‘polyester’ while ‘PET’ is used often to refer to the packaging resins.
The polyester fibre market has taken market share from both synthetic fibres and natural fibres. World polyester fibre demand is expected to continue growing at 6%/year driven by China’s domination of the world market.
PET bottle resin first penetrated the carbonated soft drinks market because it is lightweight and strong. PET has taken market share in the bottled water market due to its good clarity. Demand for PET has grown strongly at an average of 9%/year in the last few years. An untapped market for PET is beer packaging with substantial conversion still yet to materialise.
In the manufacture of PET resins, purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and monoethylene glycol (MEG) are reacted to make a basic ester which is polymerised in a melt phase, polycondensation finishing reactor. Dimethyl terephthalate (DMT) is an alternative feedstock to PTA but the PTA route is preferred. The molten polymer is extruded, cut into chips and cooled. The chips pass to a solid state polycondensation unit to form the PET resin.
PET has good chemical resistance to mineral oils, acids and solvents but not to bases. It is not considered to be hazardous or flammable. However, molten material will produce thermal burns.
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Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) exists both as an amorphous (transparent) and a semi-crystalline (opaque and white) thermoplastic, and can be made into either a resin or a film. The semi-crystalline PET has good strength, ductility, stiffness and hardness while the amorphous PET has better ductility. PET also has good processability and can be recycled for other applications such as polyester fibres.
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PTA and MEG are reacted to make a basic ester which is polymerised in a melt phase, polycondensation finishing reactor operating under heat and vacuum. The molten polymer is extruded, cut into chips and cooled. The chips pass to a solid state polycondensation unit which can be considered an annealing process to form the resin. Both continuous and batch process are available for the polymerisation.
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