Often added to polymers, plasticizers can improve the material’s durability. They can also reduce friction and increase its flexibility. They are used in a variety of end-use applications. These include plastic tubing, shower curtains, clothing, and electric wire insulation.
Plasticizers can be either solids or liquids. These can be produced from renewable sources such as hemicellulose, starches, and sugars. They can also be made from non-edible biomass. Generally, the plasticizer chemical type trend is moving toward higher molecular weight orthophthalates.
Although phthalates are the most common class of plasticizers, other types are being developed. These include the cyclohexanemono- and poly-carboxylic acid esters. These have improved the viscosity stability of plastisols.
Another important aspect to consider when designing plasticizers is their ability to degrade. A number of plasticizers are not readily biodegradable, which could accumulate in the environment. The presence of these chemicals is a concern for the health of humans.
To address this problem, green designers will need to design plasticizers that are benign. They will also need to consider reducing leaching rates. This will allow them to minimize the environmental impact of the materials while maintaining product performance and safety.
Some green designs will also include the use of renewable feedstocks. They will also need to consider leaching studies and toxicity testing. This is an important consideration because excessive leaching can affect the durability of a plastic product.
When designing new molecules, special attention should be given to the synthesis and scale-up processes. These should be optimized to ensure the best results.