Polyester is a term often defined as “long-chain polymers chemically composed of at least 85% by weight of an ester and a dihydric alcohol and a terephthalic acid”. In other words, it means the linking of several esters within the fibers. Reaction of alcohol with carboxylic acid results in the formation of esters. Polyester fibers, the synthetic fibers, are long chain polymers derived from coal, air, water, and petroleum. They are formed through chemical reaction between an acid and alcohol. In this reaction, two or more molecules combine to make a large molecule whose structure repeats throughout its length. These molecules are very stable and strong. There are variations in the compositions and therefore in the properties of polyester fibers. Polyester can also be classified as saturated and unsaturated polyesters. Saturated polyesters refer to that family of polyesters in which the polyester backbones are saturated. They are thus not as reactive as unsaturated polyesters. They consist of low molecular weight liquids used as plasticizers and as reactants in forming urethane polymers, and linear, high molecular weight thermoplastics such as polyethylene terephthalate. Unsaturated polyesters refer to that family of polyesters in which the backbone consists of alkyl thermosetting resins characterized by vinyl unsaturation. They are mostly used in reinforced plastics. These are the most widely used and economical family of resins. Depending on the chemical structure polyester can be a thermoplastic or thermoset; however the most common polyesters are thermoplastics.

Polyester is currently defined as: "Long-chain polymers chemically composed of at least 85 percent by weight of an ester and a dihydric alcohol and a terephthalic acid." The name "polyester" refers to the linkage of several monomers (esters) within the fiber. Esters are formed when alcohol reacts with a carboxylic acid:

There are, therefore, many possible variations of the generic polyester fiber. Two that are currently produced commercially are polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and poly-1,4, cyclohexylene dimethylene (PCDT). A third polyester fiber, polyethylene oxybenzoate (PEB) was manufactured in Japan during the 1970s and early 1980s under the trade name A-Tell®. Production of this fiber was discontinued, however, because it did not offer enough performance advantages to remain competitive in the textile market. Polyester is a smooth fiber with an even diameter. The fiber diameter usually ranges from 12-25 micrometers (10-15 denier). The undyed fiber is slightly offwhite and partially transparent. The fibers are approximately 35% crystaline and 65% amorphous. Close up of a polyester fiber

Most polyester is made from petroleum from which the constituent acids and alcohols are derived. The types of processes that manufacturers use vary, and little is known about specific manufacturing processes, because the companies want to keep them a secret in order to remain competitive. Here is a general description of how polyester is synthesized:

Condensation polymerization occurs when the acid and alcohol are reacted in a vacuum at high temperatures. The polymerized material is extruded in the form of a ribbon onto a casting trough or cooling wheel. After the ribbon hardens, it is cut into chips.

The chips are dried and then put into hopper reservoirs for melting. Polyester is a "melt spun" fiber, which means that it is heated, extruded through the spinnerets, and cools upon hitting the air. From there it is loosely wound around cylinders.

The fibers are then hot stretched until they are about five times their original length in order to decrease their width. The fiber is then wound onto cones as filaments or is crimped and then is cut into staple lengths.

Types of Polyester The polyester fibers are generally available in two varieties- PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and PCDT (poly-1, 4-cyclohexylene-dimethylene terephthalate). PET is the most common production. It is stronger than PCDT, while PCDT has more elasticity and resilience. PET can be used alone or blended with other fabrics for making wrinkle free and stain resistant clothing that can retain its shape. PCDT is more suitable for heavier applications, such as draperies and furniture coverings. Modifications can be introduced in each of these varieties for obtaining specific properties. PET Polyester For manufacturing PET Polyester, the main raw material is ethylene derived from petroleum. It is oxidized to produce a glycol monomer dihydric alcohol which is further combined with another monomer, terephthalic acid at a high temperature in a vacuum. Polymerization, the chemical process that produces the finished polyester, is done with the help of catalysts. The colorless molten polyester then flows from a slot in a vessel on to a casting wheel and takes shape of a ribbon as it cools to hardness. The polymer thus produced is then cut into very small chips, dried to remove all moisture and blended to make it uniform for getting it ready for spinning into yarn.

PCDT Polyester This variation of polyester is made by condensing terephthalic acid with 1,4cyclohexane-dimethanol to form poly-1, 4-cyclohexylene-dimethylene terephthalate or the PCDT Polyester. As for PET Polyester, PCDT is processed for melt spinning.

Composition of the main chain Aliphatic

Number of repeating units

Examples of polyesters

Examples of manufacturing methods Polycondensation of glycolic acid Ring-opening polymerization of caprolactone

Polyglycolide or Homopolymer Polyglycolic acid (PGA) Polylactic acid (PLA) Polycaprolactone (PCL) Copolymer Polyethylene adipate (PEA) Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) Polyethylene terephtalate (PET) Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) Polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT) Polyethylene naphthalate (PEN)

Semi-aromatic Copolymer

Polycondensation of terephthalic acid with ethylene glycol Polycondensation of terephthalic acid with 2,3-butanediol Polycondensation of terephthalic acid with 1,3-propanediol Polycondensation of ethylene glycol with one or more naphthalene dicarboxylic acids




Basics Polyester is a synthetic polymer made of purified terephthalic acid (PTA) or its dimethyl ester dimethyl terephthalate (DMT) and monoethylene glycol (MEG). With 18% market share of all plastic materials produced, it ranges third after polyethylene (33.5%) and polypropylene (19.5%). The main raw materials are described as follows:

Purified Terephthalic Acid – PTA Synonym: 1,4 Benzenedicarboxylic acid, Sum formula; C6H4 (COOH)2 , mol weight: 166,13

Dimethylterephthalate – DMT Synonym: 1,4 Benzenedicarboxylic acid dimethyl ester Sum formula C6H4 (COOCH3)2 , mol weight: 194,19

Mono Ethylene Glycol – MEG Synonym: 1,2 Ethanediol Sum formula: C2H6O2 , mol weight: 62,07

Antimony trioxide – ATO Synonym: none, Mol weight: 291,51 Sum formula: Sb2O3

Polyethylene Terephthalate Synonym / abbreviations: polyester, PET, PES Sum Formula: H-[C10H8O4]-n=60-120 OH, mol unit weight: 192,17

There are several reasons for the importance of Polyester:
• • • • • •

The relatively easy accessible raw materials PTA or DMT and MEG The very well understood and described simple chemical process of polyester synthesis The low toxicity level of all raw materials and side products during polyester production and processing The possibility to produce PET in a closed loop at low emissions to the environment The outstanding mechanical and chemical properties of polyester The recyclability

Characteristics of polyester
• • • •

Polyester fabrics and fibers are extremely strong. Polyester is very durable: resistant to most chemicals, stretching and shrinking, wrinkle resistant, mildew and abrasion resistant. Polyester is hydrophobic in nature and quick drying. It can be used for insulation by manufacturing hollow fibers. Polyester retains its shape and hence is good for making outdoor clothing for harsh climates. It is easily washed and dried.


Fabrics woven from polyester thread or yarn are used extensively in apparel and home furnishings, from shirts and pants to jackets and hats, bed sheets, blankets and upholstered furniture. Industrial polyester fibers, yarns and ropes are used in tyre reinforcements, fabrics for conveyor belts, safety belts, coated fabrics and plastic reinforcements with high-energy absorption. Polyester fiber is used as cushioning and insulating material in pillows, comforters and upholstery padding. Polyesters are also used to make "plastic" bottles, films, tarpaulin, canoes, liquid crystal displays, holograms, filters, dielectric film for capacitors, film insulation for wire and insulating tapes.

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