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High Temperature Thermoplastics

This guide features key facts about high temperature thermoplastics. These materials are a specialized and rapidly growing segment of the plastics market. High temperature thermoplastics are used in specialized applications that require a combination of extraordinary properties. This guide will apprise you with the key features of high temperature thermoplastics, their comparison with metals & thermosets and end market applications.

High Temperature Thermoplastics

  • High temperature thermoplastics are melt processable plastics.
  • They have structural capabilities over the long-term at service temperatures greater than 150°C and short-term use at temperatures of greater than 250°C.
  • High temperature thermoplastics are a specialized and rapidly growing segment of the plastics market.
  • These materials require a combination of extraordinary properties.
Depending on their application, they must have superior short- and long-term thermal stability, chemical and radiation resistance, resistance to burning, and superior mechanical properties that are often equal to metals.
High Temperature Thermoplastic

Another distinguishing feature of high temperature thermoplastics is their cost, which is on average 10 times higher than more general purpose plastics. It is not only the excellent temperature capabilities of these polymers that has peaked interest and led to the relatively high growth rate. In many applications, their chemical resistance, wear resistance, and other performance properties are even more valued than heat resistance. Sometimes these high temperature thermoplastics are also referred to as "high performance plastics".

High temperature thermoplastics generally gain their temperature resistance from the introduction of rigid aromatic rings instead of aliphatic groups in their molecular structure. This restricts the movement of the backbone chain and requires two chemical links to be broken (compared to one in aliphatic structures) for a chain break (Figure 1). Hence mechanical properties, high temperature capability, and chemical resistance are greatly improved and can be often equivalent or even better than crosslinked, thermosetting polymers.

Degradation of an aromatic and a straight chain polymer due to thermal aging
Figure 1. Degradation of an aromatic and a straight chain polymer due to thermal aging

Pyramid of plastics performance
Figure 2. Pyramid of Plastic Performance
High temperature thermoplastics are used in specialized applications that require a combination of extraordinary properties. Depending on their application, they must have superior short- and long-term thermal stability, chemical and radiation resistance, resistance to burning, and superior mechanical properties that are often equated to metals.

High temperature thermoplastics are subject to significant improvements via compounding and modifications. By using special reinforcing materials, such as glass fiber, heat distortion resistance and rigidity can be improved even further than that shown by the base polymer. Additives such as fluorocarbon or graphite particles will considerably improve sliding friction characteristics.


The addition of conductive fillers will provide improved electrical conductivity, and the addition of boron nitride and other thermally conductive fillers will provide good thermal transmission that is important in many high heat applications. High temperature thermoplastics are also often considered as replacements for thermoset polymers such as epoxy, phenolic, polyester, etc.

Today, the high temperature melt-processable thermoplastics market comprises a number of polymer families and each family consisting of several polymer types within. The plastics industry commonly uses terms such as "high performance", "engineering polymers", and "standard" or "commodity" plastics to describe the applications for these materials. Figure 2 above illustrates the placement of high performance or high temperature thermoplastics.

Dow Far
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