Polyisoprene elastomers are synthetic polymers that resemble natural rubber in molecular structure as well as in properties. Synthetic polyisoprene has a lower percentage of cis-1,4 polyisoprene units. Manufacturing polyisoprene with the desired properties is a complex process: the polymerization of isoprene can lead to various repeating units. Different types of polyisoprene are 1,2 – polyisoprene, trans 1,4 polyisoprene, cis-1,4 – polyisoprene and 3,4 polyisoprene. Several different processes can be used to manufacture polyisoprene. Ziegler-Natta polymerization allows trans 1,4 polyisoprene, cis 1,4 – polyisoprene, and 3,4 – polyisoprene to be custom made. This type of polymerization is the most widely used process to produce polyisoprene having significant cis-1,4 content. Polyisoprenes, both natural (from trees) and synthetic are noted for, resistance to tear and abrasion, excellent elasticity, outstanding resilience and flex fatigue resistance. Polyisoprenes elastomers have superior tensile strength characteristics and are operable in low temperature environments. Polyisoprenes elastomers are not recommended for petroleum, ozone, high heat, sunlight, or hydrocarbon environments. Synthetic polyisoprene exceeds the natural polyisoprene type in processing, consistency of product, cure rate and purity. In addition, it is superior in extrusion, mixing, calendering and molding processes.
Polyisoprene elastomers are used in a variety of end-use applications requiring low water swell, good resilience, good tack, high hot tensile strength and high gum tensile strength Tires are the single largest application for polyisoprene contributing to majority of the consumption. Black-loaded polyisoprene is used in motor mounts, tires, shock absorber bushings, pipe gaskets and numerous other mechanical and molded products. In addition, polyisoprene elastomers are used in cut thread, rubber bands, extruded hoses and baby bottles and other such items. Furthermore polyisoprene finds applications in sponges, footwear and sporting goods. Other uses include adhesives, medical applications, and sealants.
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The growth in the end user industries is expected to be the major driving factor for the growth of polyisoprene elastomers market. The increase in the production of tires is expected to boost the demand for polyisoprene elastomers. In addition, consumption of polyisoprene elastomers is increasing in emerging economies such as China and India due to rapid economic growth and urbanization. As polyisoprene is chemically similar to natural rubber, it competes with natural rubber in most of the applications. Therefore, the prices of natural rubber determine the demand for polyisoprene in that region.
Asia Pacific, North America and Europe are the major markets for polyisoprene elastomers. Russia is expected to be the world market leader in terms of production and exports of polyisoprene elastomers. India, China and Japan are the major consumers of polyisoprene elastomers in Asia Pacific. Currently China is the fastest growing market for polyisoprene elastomers. Several manufacturers have shifted their polyisoprene elastomer facilities to China due to growing demand from end user industries. Due to increasing production of polyisoprene in China, the imports for polyisoprene is expected to decrease in the coming few years.
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Some of the key players in this market are Zeon Chemicals (U.S.), Goodyear Chemicals (U.S.), JSR Corporation (Japan), Kuraray (Japan) and Kraton Polymers (U.S.) among others. ZEON Chemicals manufactures polyisoprene elastomers under the brand name Nipol. Nipol polyisoprene elastomers are ideal for use in camelback, tires, V-belt, conveyor belts, packing’s, seals, footwear, coated fabrics, rubber thread and other molded and extruded goods. Nipol polyisoprene elastomers offer superior tensile properties and ease of processability for improved quality and consistency.