Perfluoropolyether (PFPE) belongs to the family of fluorinated synthetic fluids. PFPE are low-molecular-weight, partially fluorinated, oxetane oligomeric polyols that are non-toxic, non-flammable, and resistant to chemicals. They are used in extreme temperatures varying from −80°C to 200°C. PFPE are polymeric species having repeated per fluorinated methyl-, and ethyl- or isopropyl ether units. They have a variety of application-specific end groups. Depending on the application, their molecular structure varies from linear, branched, to a combination of both. They are synthesized by photo-initiated oxidative polymerization.
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There exist four different kinds of PFPE fluids viz. PFPE-K, PFPE-M, PFPE-Y, and PFPE-Z. All PFPE fluids contain oxygen, carbon, and fluorine atoms. However, each type of fluid is a product of different starting materials and manufacturing processes. These structural differences affect the temperature resistivity, ability to prevent wear, lubricity, and volatility of the fluid.
Based on the end-user application, the market for PFPE has been segmented into automotive, electronics, aerospace, and coatings. Demand for non-toxic, non-flammable, corrosion-resistant specifications of lubricants, growth in the automotive industry, increasing defense budgets, and growing technology in the aerospace industry are the factors driving the PFPE market. PFPE is used significantly in the aerospace industry as instrument-bearing grease, joint-bearing grease in aircraft fuel systems and astronaut spacesuit bearings. Additionally, it is used extensively for coating the surfaces of tiles, stones, ceramics, and glass for imparting the properties such as oil and water repellency and low adhesion and friction.
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PFPE is also employed in the electronics industry, as it is used as a vacuum grease in semiconductor processing and as a top-coating lubricant in CD drives. In the automotive industry it is utilized for coating in advanced braking system (ABS) and as a grease between gears. However, lack of literature and R&D, diminishing market for CD drives, and emission of fumes from the PFPE fluid upon contact with high temperatures are the factors likely to hamper the market for PFPE. Opportunities to bridge the gap by providing literature regarding environmental aspects of PFPE fluids exist for the companies
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