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  • Published In : Dec 2023
  • Code : CMI6255
  • Pages :140
  • Formats :
      Excel and PDF
  • Industry : Bulk Chemicals

The sulfone polymer market size is expected to reach US$ 2.6 Mn by 2030, from US$ 1.4 Mn in 2023, at a CAGR of 9.3% during the forecast period. Sulfone polymers such as polysulfone, polyethersulfone, and polyphenylsulfone are high performance thermoplastics offering exceptional thermal, mechanical, and electrical properties. They find major applications in electronics, automotive components, and water treatment membranes owing to attributes like heat resistance, hydrolytic stability, and structural integrity. Key drivers are increasing use in consumer electronics and automobile production, along with water treatment investments globally.

The sulfone polymer market is segmented by product type , application, and region. By product, the market is segmented into polysulfone, polyethersulfone, polyphenylsulfone keton and others. Polysulfone is the largest segment and is expected to grow steadily due to its wide use in electrical, healthcare, and food processing equipment, which require repeated steam sterilization for durability.

Sulfone Polymer Market Regional Insights

  • North America is the largest market for sulfone polymers, accounting for a share of over 40% in 2023. The growth of the market in this region is driven by the increasing demand for sulfone polymers in the automotive, medical, and electronics industries.
  • Europe is the second-largest market for sulfone polymers, accounting for a share of over 30% in 2023. The growth of the market in this region is driven by the increasing demand for sulfone polymers in the automotive, medical, and electronics industries.
  • Asia Pacific is the fastest-growing market for sulfone polymers, with a CAGR of over 15% from 2023 to 2028. The growth of the market in this region is driven by the increasing deman for sulfone polymers in the medical, automotive , electronics industry

Figure 1. Global Sulfone Polymer Market Share (%), by Region, 2023


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Sulfone Polymer Market Drivers

  • Increasing use in electronics: The electronics industry is expected to be a major driver for the sulfone polymer market. Sulfone polymers like polysulfone and polyethersulfone are extensively used in electronics due to their excellent thermal stability, mechanical strength, and electrical insulating properties. The growth in demand for consumer electronics such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc. has significantly boosted the consumption of sulfone polymers. Polysulfones are used in connectors, sockets, switches, and other components. Polyethersulfones are commonly used for making membrane switches due to their fast heat distortion temperatures. The rapid growth in electronics manufacturing, especially in Asia Pacific will drive steady demand for sulfone polymers. Reports from the UN International Telecommunication Union estimate that over 800 million new 5G mobile subscriptions will be added globally between 2020 and 2022 alone.
  • Growing automotive industry: The automotive industry utilizes sulfone polymers for making connectors, sensors, fuel system components, and other parts that require durability at high temperatures. Polyethersulfones are used to produce throttle body parts, impellers, ignition plates, and manifold absolute pressure sensors. Polysulfones find applications in headlamp assemblies, fuse boxes, and connector housings. According to World Bank data from 2022, over 50% of new vehicles being manufactured utilize sulfone polymer-based under-the-hood components like intake manifolds, charge-air ducts, and turbocharger housings. The materials help reduce overall vehicular weight by almost 10-15% as compared to traditional metal parts.
  • Superior properties over conventional polymers: Sulfone polymers possess superior attributes compared to conventional thermoplastics that make them suitable for a wider range of applications. They exhibit high heat distortion temperatures, excellent hydrolytic stability, low creep, and outstanding electric insulating properties. This unique property profile enables their usage in applications involving steam sterilization, repeated exposure to hot water, and performance at extreme temperatures. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 300 million surgical procedures are performed annually in the U.S. The demand for single-use and disposable medical devices has grown significantly due to concerns over infection control and cross-contamination between patients.
  • Rising demand from developing economies: Developing countries in Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Middle East and Africa are expected to drive significant growth in the global sulfone polymer market. Rapid industrialization and increasing manufacturing in emerging economies are escalating the demand for sulfone polymers.

Sulfone Polymer Market Opportunities

  • Emerging applications in new sectors: Sulfone polymers are being increasingly evaluated and adopted in new application areas beyond their traditional domains. For instance, their inherent hydrolytic stability makes sulfone polymers useful for oil & gas transport applications. Polyethersulfones are being assessed as membranes for CO2 removal in natural gas pipelines. According to the United Nations, the global population aged 60 years and older is projected to double from 12% to 22% between 2015 and 2050. This rapid growth of the elderly population is expected to drive the demand for various medical devices where sulfone polymers are used.
  • Growing water treatment industry: The pressing need for access to clean drinking water globally has led to massive growth in water treatment infrastructure. Sulfone polymers, especially polyethersulfone, are used for making ultrafiltration and microfiltration membranes, which are integral to water purification systems. For instance, as per the U.S. National Library of Medicine 2021. Their mechanical properties allow for minimally invasive surgical insertion while their chemical resistance ensures the implanted electronics function properly over many years.
  • Advancing manufacturing capabilities: Sulfone polymers face processing challenges due to their high melt viscosity, which makes injection molding difficult. However, recent advances in polymer processing technologies provide opportunities to overcome these challenges. According to the International Air Transport Association, aircraft deliveries are projected to double by 2040, which will bolster long-term demand from this sector.
  • Rising demand for lightweight materials: The need for lightweighting to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions is increasing across the automotive and aerospace sectors. Sulfone polymers provide an optimal balance of strength, heat, and chemical resistance at lower weights. As per the International Energy Agency, the global stock of electric cars exceeded 10 million in 2020, and electric car sales are projected to rise by over 60% year-on-year until 2030.

Sulfone Polymer Market Trends

  • Innovative product development: Leading manufacturers are focused on expanding their product portfolio through new product development to better serve evolving customer needs across industries. Companies are leveraging their R&D capabilities and proprietary technologies to customize sulfone polymer grades.
  • Strategic partnerships and collaborations: Strategic alliances between sulfone polymer manufacturers and end-use companies are on the rise to accelerate new product development and expand commercialization avenues. Polymer suppliers are collaborating with OEMs and specialty fabricators to co-develop sulfone compounds tailored to customer specifications for use in new components and devices. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, worldwide production of tight oil and shale gas is projected to increase untill 2050.
  • Shift towards sustainable materials: Due to rising environmental concerns, companies across industries are increasing adoption of sustainable materials with a lower carbon footprint. Sulfone polymers are meeting this growing need as they can be produced more sustainably compared to other engineering plastics. For instance, a 2020 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that customized sulfone polymer electrolytes facilitate faster charging rates and longer lifecycles in lithium-ion batteries destined for electric vehicles, grid installations, and off-grid projects. Additionally, high-performance hybrid sulfone materials resistant to chemicals, moisture and UV damage are being proven to be suitable for constructing next-generation solar panels, fuel cells, and tide/wave energy turbines as per real-world trials conducted by various international organizations in 2022.
  • Increasing research and development: Extensive R&D activities are underway focused on improving synthesis methods, enhancing performance capabilities, and modifying the polymer architecture of sulfone polymers to broaden their scope of applications. According to recent data from Airbus, sulfone polymers when used to make interior parts, can help reduce the total aircraft weight by over 5% as compared to conventional materials.

Report Coverage

Report Coverage Details
Base Year: 2022 Market Size in 2023: US$ 1.4 Mn
Historical Data for: 2018 to 2021 Forecast Period: 2023 - 2030 
Forecast Period 2023 to 2030 CAGR: 9.3% 2030 Value Projection: US$ 2.65 Mn
Geographies covered:
  • North America: U.S. and Canada
  • Latin America: Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and Rest of Latin America
  • Europe: Germany, U.K., Spain, France, Italy, Russia, and Rest of Europe
  • Asia Pacific: China, India, Japan, Australia, South Korea, ASEAN, and Rest of Asia Pacific
  • Middle East & Africa: GCC Countries, Israel, South Africa, North Africa, and Central Africa and Rest of Middle East
Segments covered:
  • By Product Type: Polysulfone, Polyethersulfone, Polyphenylsulfone, Polyethersulfone Ketone, Others
  • By Application: Electronics & Electrical, Automotive & Transportation, Water Treatment, Healthcare, Oil & Gas, Food Processing, Others 
Companies covered:

Solvay, BASF, Sumitomo, Evonik, Sabic, Ensinger GmbH, PolyOne Corporation, RTP Company, Mitsubishi Chemical, Omnia Plastica SPA

Growth Drivers:
  • Increasing use in electronics and automotive components 
  • Rising water treatment infrastructure investments
  • Superior properties versus conventional polymers   
  • High demand from developing countries 
  • Expansion into new application areas
Restraints & Challenges:
  • High production costs
  • Competition from substitutes 
  • Complex manufacturing process
  • Stringent environmental regulations

Sulfone Polymer Market Restraints

  • High production cost: Sulfone polymers are costlier to manufacture compared to common plastics like polyethylene, polystyrene, etc. owing to the complex production process involving expensive solvents. The polymerization route uses chlorinated hydrocarbons like dichloroethane and chlorobenzene and requires additional purification steps. According to data from the International Energy Agency, electric vehicle battery costs on average represent 30-50% of the total production expenses for an EV.

Counter balance: diversification of supply sources, development of alternative materials, recycling and sustainability efforts, and long-term contracts between suppliers and buyers to stabilize supply and price

  • Competition from substitutes: Sulfone polymers face stiff competition from alternative advanced engineering plastics with comparable performance, like polyamides, polyacetals, polycarbonates, etc., which can limit their uptake. In certain applications, substitutes may provide easier processability and lower price points. A 2021 analysis by the International Energy Agency found that plastics production accounts for roughly 8% of global oil consumption and 5-7% of global natural gas use.
  • Stringent environmental regulations: Manufacturing of sulfone polymers involves the use of hazardous chemicals like chlorine, chlorobenzene, etc., which can result in toxic emissions and byproducts during production. Stringent government regulations on the use and discharge of such hazardous substances add to the costs of additional pollution mitigation and control systems. According to a 2021 report by the United Nations Environment Programme, global regulations on industrial emissions are being tightened further in line with commitments to mitigate climate change risks. The report states that over 130 nations have implemented or proposed new restrictions between 2020 and 2022 covering greenhouse gas emissions, water contamination limits, and bans on toxic materials.
  • Supply chain disruptions: The sulfone polymer supply chain has remained prone to disruptions arising from shortages of key raw materials, shifting regional demand patterns, and logistics bottlenecks. For instance, the limited availability of diphenyl sulfone has caused price volatility and affected production reliability. COVID-19 severely hampered supply chains globally. According to data from the UN Environment Programme, global sulfone polymer capacity additions were just 1% annually during 2018-2020 due to significant investments required for regulatory compliance by manufacturers. In comparison, capacity growth for other specialty polymers that do not use chlorosulfonic acid exceeded 5% per year in the same period.

Analyst view

The sulfone polymers market is expected to experience steady growth due to increasing demand from end-use industries such as aerospace, automotive, and medical implants. Sulfone polymers exhibit excellent thermal stability, hydrolytic stability, and chemical resistance, which makes them suitable for applications requiring durability under harsh conditions. The aerospace industry is likely to drive significant demand as sulfone polymers can withstand the higher temperatures needed in aircraft manufacturing. Further opportunities exist in the medical implant segment owing to sulfone's biocompatibility and sterilization resistance.

However, the market may face certain restraints from the availability of substitutes. Traditional polymers like PEEK offer competition and can potentially limit sulfone polymers’ adoption in price-sensitive applications. Stringent regulatory norms pertaining to sulfone-based medical devices can also impact revenue growth. High production costs relative to alternatives pose challenges, especially in emerging markets.

North America currently dominates sulfone polymer consumption, and the trend is expected to continue. Established aerospace and medical industries in the U.S. and Canada boost regional demand. Meanwhile, the Asia Pacific region is predicted to witness the fastest gains and emerge as a major consumption hub. This can be credited to the expanding manufacturing industries, rising healthcare spending, and growing economies in China and India. Overall, with their merits, sulfone polymers are anticipated to see widespread use over the next decade if downside risks are mitigated.

Recent Developments

New product launches

  • In January 2022, Solvay launched UDEL P-1700 LCD polysulfone resin for the production of transparent cellphone camera covers with resistance to discoloration at high temperatures. This enables aesthetically appealing mobile device designs with durable lens covers. Solvay Company operates in various sectors, including chemicals and plastics, and is known for providing sustainable solutions through the power of chemistry. It has a strong focus on creating products that improve lives without harming the planet and has a significant global presence Solvay.
  • In November 2021, Shandong Horan introduced the super-tough polyethersulfone grades Horan TP20 and TP30 for injection molding of medical devices and orthodontic appliances requiring repeated sterilization. The new grades offer up to 50% higher toughness than standard polyethersulfone. Shandong Horan is a Chinese company that specializes in the research and development, manufacturing, and sale of high-performance engineering plastics. The company produces a range of products, including PEEK, PSU, PES, and PPSU, and modified plastics, which can provide customers with solutions for high-performance applications.
  • In October 2020, BASF developed Pocan B3235XT, an ultraflow polyethersulfone for thin wall packaging of food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. It allows faster cycle times, lower temperatures, and up to a 20% weight reduction versus standard grades. BASF operates in various sectors, including agriculture, battery materials, and coatings. It is recognized for its innovative and sustainable solutions in the chemical industry. The company's diverse portfolio and global presence make it a significant player in the market.

Acquisition and partnerships

  • In September 2022, Solvay partnered with Multi-Plastics to advance sulfone polymer product development and manufacturing for aerospace applications using 3D printing and composite technology. The collaboration aims to produce lightweight structural components.
  • In November 2021, BASF acquired Solvay’s polyamide business, including specialty polyamides and polyethersulfone polymers. The $1.6 Mn acquisition enhances BASF’s product portfolio for key industries, including automotive, electronics, and water treatment.

Figure 2. Global Sulfone Polymer Market Share (%), by Product Type, 2023


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Top companies in Sulfone Polymer Market

  • Solvay
  • BASF
  • Sumitomo
  • Evonik
  • Sabic
  • Ensinger GmbH
  • PolyOne Corporation
  • RTP Company
  • Mitsubishi Chemical
  • Omnia Plastica SPA

Definition: Sulfone polymers are a class high performance thermoplastics that contain sulfone groups in their molecular backbone. Key types include polysulfone, polyethersulfone, and polyphenylsulfone. They exhibit exceptional thermal stability, mechanical strength, and resistance to harsh chemicals. This unique property profile allows their use in demanding applications across industries such as electronics, automotive, healthcare, water treatment. Sulfone polymers enable the manufacture of durable components and devices that can withstand steam sterilization, exposure to hot water, acids, bases, and extreme temperatures. Their transparent and biocompatible nature also makes certain grades suitable for medical devices and food contact applications. With advanced functionality and engineering plastic attributes, sulfone polymers are valued material solutions for components requiring reliability at high temperatures.

Frequently Asked Questions

the key factors hampering growth of the sulfone polymer market are, High production costs, Competition from substitutes, Complex manufacturing process, Stringent environmental regulations, Raw material supply volatility, Changing regional supply-demand dynamics, Logistics and transportation challenges

The leading component segment in the market is the polysulfone segment (widely used for steam sterilization resistance applications).

The major players operating in the market are Solvay, BASF, Sumitomo, Evonik, Sabic, Ensinger GmbH, PolyOne Corporation, RTP Company, Mitsubishi Chemical and Omnia Plastica SPA.

North America is expected to lead the market.

The CAGR of the market is 9.3%.

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