Emulsion polymers are molecules with high molecular weight that are dispersed in water, and can be used either in solid or liquidform. Emulsion polymerization is a free radical process used to manufacture various commercially vital polymers. It includes emulsification of one or more monomers in a continuous aqueous phase and its stabilization by a surfactant. The key applications of emulsion polymers are in industries such as: paints and coatings, paper and paperboard, adhesives, and carpet manufacturing industries. The most common types of emulsion polymers in the market include: acrylics, styrene butadiene latex, and vinyl acetate polymers. However, of late, the market has started to shift its focus towards bio-based emulsion polymers. The market for bio-based emulsion polymers is currentlylimited and is expected to grow considerablyduring the forecast period.
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Several companies such as Trinseo S.A. and EcoSynthetix, Inc. have developed latex for application in paints and coatings, and paper coating applications based on starch derived from corn and tapioca. The overall market for emulsion polymers is driven by applications in paints and coatings, and paper coating. The emulsion polymers are used as binders in these applications. Apart from that,it is used in adhesives and as a concrete additive. The conventional emulsion polymers such as styrene butadiene latex and acrylics are downstream derivatives of crude oil, and emit volatile organic compounds which are toxic to the environment.
Due to the stringent environmental regulations with respect to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and rising prices of oil, bio-based emulsion polymers hold a great potential for the future growth of the market. The two types of technologies that can be used are: bio-based sugar macromer technology, and bio-based latex polymer technology. The former uses sugar macromer as a raw material for the synthesis of polymer, and the latter uses starch derived from corn, rice, potato, and tapioca, materials that are available in abundance around the world. New hybrid vinyl copolymers such as vinyl acetate, styrene-butadiene (SB), acrylics, and styrene acrylate (SA) can be used to synthesize sugar copolymer latex. In addition, acrylic monomers derived from plant oils such as soybean, castor, cotton, and corn can be used to produce acrylic hybrid latex. Polymers derived from bio-based latex polymer technology are renewable and provide improved performance as compared to other polymers such as SB and SA latex, and are expected to receive significant attention in the near future. The bio renewable content of bio-based emulsion polymers is up to 30%.
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North America and Europe hold a majority of the marketshare for bio-based emulsion polymers. Regulatory issues coupled with consumer awareness in favor of bio-based products augur well for bio-based emulsion polymers in these regions. The demand for bio-based emulsion polymers is comparatively low in the Asia Pacific region, except for Japan. However, since demand for conventional emulsion polymers is the highest in the region with the best growth prospects, the demand for bio-based emulsion polymers is also expected to rise gradually.
Several established chemical companies are involved in the production of bio-based emulsion polymers. Some key companies operating in this market include: Trinseo S.A., BASF SE, Dow Chemical Company, and Ecosynthetix, Inc. Many companies have initiated pilot projects and production is expected to commence at a commercial scale in the near future.
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