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What is PFA polymer or perfluoroalkoxy alkane? How and when to choose it 

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Polymer coatings are deposited surface treatments that can be applied to all metals using spraying techniques, guaranteeing protection and durability.  The various options available include the polymer PFA (perfluoroalkoxy alkane). This is a versatile, high-performance solutions that offers numerous benefits for a range of industrial applications. Its non-stick, sliding and  chemical-resistance properties make it popular and in demand in a growing number of industrial sectors.

PFA polymer composition and molecular structure

PFA polymer belongs to the family of fluoropolymers (known for their exceptional chemical, heat and flame resistance), the first of which to be discovered was PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene).  PFA is normally found in the form of a partially crystalline powder and is derived from polymerization of tetrafluoroethylene with a perfluorinated ethylene monomer (with a ratio of 100 to 1). At the molecular level, it is composed of a polymer repeating units in which carbon atoms are completely replaced by fluorine atoms. This molecular structure gives PFA a combination of unique properties, making it ideal for a wide range of industrial applications (including use in extremely corrosive and high-temperature environments).

Physical properties of PFA

The main properties of Teflon® PFA include extraordinary chemical and heat resistance and exceptional resistance to corrosion, temperature and aggressive chemicals. Let’s explore these properties in detail:

  • Corrosion resistance: PFA coatings is more compact that other fluoropolymers. It therefore offers lower permeability, making it exceptionally resistant to chemical corrosion by acids, bases, solvents and other aggressive chemicals. This resistance means it is ideal for extreme industrial environments and applications where high levels of protection against chemical wear is required.
  • Heat resistance: Teflon® PFA coatings also give materials extraordinary resistance to high temperatures. In fact, the polymer can be used without risk of damage in sustained temperatures of 260°C and intermittent temperatures of up to 310°C, without losing its mechanical and chemical properties. This heat resistance makes it excellent for applications involving high temperatures or significant changes in temperature.
  • Highly flame retardant: closely linked to the heat resistance of this coating is its resistance to flames, reducing the risk of fires and heat damage. This property is particularly important in environments with a high level of fire risk.
  • Low permeability: PFA has low permeability to gases and liquids. After application, the treated component has a coating with a non-porous surface, making it ideal for applications that require a high level of waterproofing and protection from external agents.
  • Non-stick: PFA effectively prevents sticking to metal for substances including adhesives, rubbers, glues, inks, paints, plastics, fabrics, leathers and foodstuffs. In fact, by applying profiles to the surface structure with a special rough finish, the area of contact is reduced, thus increasing ease of removal.
  • Sliding: PFA enables optimised performance of production and packaging lines. In fact, by increasing the sliding performance of coated substrates, it can be used to facilitate transport of metals, plastics, paper and foodstuffs.

In addition to the technical properties, it is important to highlight that, due to its nature, this coating is applied as a powder and then thickened in the sintering process. This makes it suitable for application on any component, regardless of the size and shape, and it can also be applied in thick layers.  These properties mean that PFA is widely employed in sectors such as the chemicals industry, material engineering, electronics and the food industry.

Benefits of PFA polymer

The use of PFA polymer in chemical coatings offers a series of important industrial benefits:

  • Durability: with outstanding chemical and heat resistance, it offers lasting protection against corrosion and wear, extending the useful life of industrial equipment.
  • Reliability: it guarantees a high level of operational reliability in extreme industrial environments, minimising the risk of faults and production downtime.
  • Safety and stability: its intrinsic resistance to flames and high temperatures helps to guarantee a safe working environment for personnel and reduce the risk of accidents and damage to equipment.
  • Efficiency: its anti-friction properties enable excellent sliding of materials and easy cleaning of surfaces, improving operational efficiency and overall plant productivity.