Chemical blowing agents are commonly used additives in polymeric foam industry as a part of production process to impart particular properties to the polymeric foam. They help in inducing a cellular structure to polymeric foams. The cellular structure in matrix reduces density, increases thermal and acoustic insulation while increasing the relative toughness of the original material. Chemical blowing agents can help impart certain important characteristics to materials such as reduction in weight, heat insulation, sound absorbency, elasticity, permeability, electrical insulation, excellent textures, wood grain and shock absorbency among others.
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Some of the major types of chemical blowing agents are hydrocarbons (HCs), hydro-fluoro-carbons (HFCs) and hydro-chloro-fluoro-carbons (HCFCs). Hydrocarbons are the dominant product segment amongst which butanes and pentanes are most commonly used as chemical blowing agents. HCFCs have been phased out of developed nations and gradually being phased out of other regions due to their high Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) and Global Warming Potential (GWP). One of the most widely used chemical blowing agents were Chloro Fluoro Carbons (CFC’s). However, they were phased out because of their harmful effects on the ozone layer. While developing new products with similar or better functionality than CFC’s, players have to face challenges such as the impact of the products on the environment, getting suppliers who could supply them with the requisite materials and others. This has encouraged the industry players to develop and introduce alternative environment friendly chemical blowing agents into the market.
Increasing demand for polymeric foams, especially polyurethane foams, owing to the rapid development in their end-user industries such as construction and appliances has been boosting the demand for chemical blowing agents. Additionally, high growth of end use industries in Asia Pacific is anticipated to further fuel the demand for chemical blowing agents. The major foams types that utilize these blowing agents include polyurethane foam, phenolic foam, polystyrene foam and polyolefin foam.
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Polyurethane foam industry utilizes all types of chemical blowing agents and captures a major share in the market. Owing to its wide range of applications in chemicals, construction, automotive industries and others demand for polyurethane products is rising at a high growth rate, which, eventually, generates demand for chemical blowing agents. However, stringent environmental regulations regarding chemicals used as blowing agents might hamper the growth. Development of new environment friendly biobased products for utility as chemical blowing agents might bring future prospective opportunities for growth of chemical blowing agents market.
Currently, Asia-Pacific is estimated to be the world’s largest as well as fastest growing market for chemical blowing agents. The region consumed more than a half of the global demand, and emerged as a key consumer of foam insulated products. China is the key consumer of chemical blowing agents in Asia-Pacific. Other countries such as South Korea and India also generate considerable demand owing to high production levels. Mature markets in North America and Europe are expected to witness a relatively slower growth in demand for chemical blowing agents. Additionally, these regions are at the forefront of the initiatives taken towards sustainable growth practices to protect the environment.