Polyolefin elastomers (or POEs) are a relatively new class of polymers that emerged with recent advances in metallocene polymerisation catalysts. Representing one of the fastest growing synthetic polymers, POE’s can be substituted for a number of generic polymers including ethylene propylene rubbers (EPR or EPDM), ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), styrene-block copolymers (SBCs), and poly vinyl chloride (PVC).
Polyolefin elastomers are compatible with most olefinic materials, are an excellent impact modifier for plastics, and offer unique performance capabilities for compounded products.
In less than a decade, polyolefin elastomers have emerged as a leading material for automotive exterior and interior applications (primarily in thermoplastic olefins TPOs via impact modification of polypropylene), wire and cable, extruded and moulded goods, film applications, medical goods, adhesives, footwear, and foams.
Most commercially available polyolefin elastomers are copolymers of either ethylene-butene or ethylene-octene. Today, a wide array of products are available with properties ranging from amorphous to crystalline, and low to very high molecular weight. Polyolefin elastomers are often chosen over alternatives because they are:
• Suited for thermoplastic or thermoset (peroxide or moisture-cure) applications, either as the main polymer or as a value-enhancing ingredient in compound formulations,
• In pellet-form for use in both batch and continuous compounding operations, providing superior elasticity, toughness and low temperature ductility,
• Designed to optimise processing and end-use performance
• Saturated polymers providing excellent thermal stability and UV resistance, and
Polyolefin elastomers are being adopted in a variety of applications and markets resulting in global demand approaching 200 metric tons since their inception in the early 1990s. This volume should double by the mid-2000s with increasing demand and projected production expansion.
Polyolefin elastomers have proven their viability in flexible plastics applications and use in a variety of industries. Further advances in application development, product design, and manufacturing capabilities will provide increasing opportunities for years to come.