April 15, 2024

Acrylic Acid: A Versatile Raw Material for Plastics, Coatings and More

Acrylic acid is an organic compound that serves as a key building block for many industrial and consumer products. Due to its versatility and widespread applications, acrylic acid remains an important raw material for chemical manufacturing. Let’s take a closer look at this workhorse compound.

What is Acrylic Acid?
Properties and Production
Acrylic acid, also known as prop-2-enoic acid, has the chemical formula C3H4O2. It is a colorless, volatile liquid with a sharp, unpleasant odor. Acrylic acid has a boiling point of 141°C and readily polymerizes at room temperature if not properly inhibited.

Commercially, acrylic acid is primarily produced through a two-step catalytic oxidation of propylene. In the first step, propylene is oxidized to acrolein over a molybdenum catalyst. The acrolein is then oxidized to acrylic acid using a silver or iron molybdate catalyst. Annual global production of acrylic acid exceeds 5 million tons.

Major Applications of Acrylic Acid

Plastics and Polymers
By far the largest end use of acrylic acid is in the production of polymers and plastics. Around 50-60% of total acrylic acid production goes towards making acrylate esters, which are key monomers in many plastic types. Some major acrylic acid-derived plastics include:

– Polyacrylates: Used in water-based paints, adhesives, coatings and more.
– Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA): Better known as acrylic or plexiglass. Used in signage, lighting fixtures and more.
– Superabsorbent polymers (SAPs): Found in diapers, adult incontinence products and agricultural applications.
– Polyacrylamide: Flocculating agent in water treatment and used in enhanced oil recovery.

Adhesives and Sealants
Acrylic adhesives offer strong bonding to a variety of substrates like glass, wood, metal and more. Around 15-20% of total acrylic acid production is used to make adhesive acrylates for applications like:

– Paper and packaging adhesives
– Construction adhesives
– Automotive and transportation adhesives

Surface Coatings
Acrylic acid is a critical building block for water-based acrylic paints and industrial coatings. Some key uses in this segment include:

– Architectural paints for buildings, homes and more
– Industrial maintenance coatings for machinery, equipment and infrastructure
– Can and coil coatings for metal packaging
– Traffic and road marking paints

Other Applications
Additional end uses of acrylic acid include production of lubricating oils and greases, fibers, latexes, processing aids, and more. One emerging application is making acrylated plant-based resins as a “green” substitute for petroleum-derived resins in coatings and adhesives.

Outlook for Acrylic Acid
With demand driven by the growth of end-use markets like automotive, construction, packaging and personal care, the acrylic acid industry continues to expand capacity globally. Annual demand growth is projected to be 4-6% through 2030, with the Asia Pacific region accounting for over 50% of incremental volumes. Factors supporting long-term market growth include the raw material advantages of acrylic acid as well as ongoing product innovation in coatings, adhesives and plastic applications. Sustainable sourcing of raw materials will also be a key focus area going forward. Barring any major economic downturns, the future remains bright for this versatile chemical building block.

acrylic acid has proven to be a workhorse compound for the chemical industry since its commercialization in the 1930s. Due to its unique chemical properties and reactivity, acrylic acid serves as an important monomer for plastics, polymers, adhesives and various other industrial and consumer products. Its widespread applications across diverse end-use markets have supported consistent volume growth. With capacity expansions underway globally and new product innovations on the horizon, the multi-billion-dollar acrylic acid industry is well-positioned for continued expansion in the decades ahead.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it