ePTFE membrane, a new type of polymer material, has a micron or sub-micron porous three-dimensional network microstructure, which is made of PTFE resin through special processing methods such as stretching and turning. While maintaining the excellent chemical properties of PTFE, it changes the structure, shape, thickness, and surface geometry of the material, and then matches auxiliary materials with different characteristics to achieve different functions.
ePTFE Membrane Industry Chain
The main raw materials for the manufacturing and processing of ePTFE membrane are PTFE resin, PP, PE, and other polymer materials, which belong to petrochemical products;
Midstream: ePTFE Membrane Industry
It has been 50 years since ePTFE first came out in 1969, during which a large number of application fields and application scenarios have been produced. In the proton exchange membrane fuel cell represented by the hydrogen fuel cell, the exchange membrane is an important part of the battery, which is used to separate the cathode and anode reactants and transfer protons. Nafion-H, which is commonly used at present, has a relatively high price, resulting in the high cost of proton exchange membranes, and its insufficient structural strength makes it difficult to reduce the thickness. By compounding with PTFE and ePTFE, it is possible to replace part of Nafion-H with PTFE and ePTFE, which reduces the use of high-cost materials and improves the structural strength of the entire assembly, and greatly reduces the thickness of the membrane.
China's high-end ePTFE relies on imports, and domestic excellent companies are catching up with the support of policies. American Gore is the absolute leader in the ePTFE industry, and its global annual sales revenue has reached 3.7 billion US dollars. The domestic high-end ePTFE material market is monopolized by foreign giants such as Gore, Nitto Denko, and Donaldson.
In recent years, government departments have continuously introduced policies to support the development of high-end membrane materials. In April 2017, the Ministry of Science and Technology pointed out that high-performance membrane materials should be listed as an important direction for national development in the field of materials; in November 2018, the National Bureau of Statistics listed materials such as PTFE and ePTFE as key products; in November 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology High-strength hollow PTFE membranes and ePTFE parts are used as advanced basic materials and ePTFE as a key strategic material. Thanks to the policy and financial support, the localization of new materials is accelerating.
With the continuous efforts of domestic companies, it has built the base for localization of some high-end ePTFE products, in which the core technical indicators of parts of products are at the same level as imported products.
Pan Asian Microvent, a domestic representative company, has long-term cooperation with well-known automobile OEMs and parts factories, which has successfully overcome industrialization barriers through continuous experimentation and exploration of technology, and self-designed and produced equipment. The company has successfully mastered advanced technology and applied in different fields, which has become one of the few suppliers in the industry that can manufacture ePTFE membranes and components with many different characteristics on a large scale.
Chenguang Institute, a subsidiary of Haohua Corp, uses the ePTFE microfiltration membrane, a new aviation material with high-efficiency filtration and low respiratory resistance as the core filter material. The ultra-thin KN95 mask composited with ePTFE membrane and non-woven fabric has excellent media resistance and weather resistance, which can tolerate boiling water, alcohol, and other disinfection methods to realize the reuse after disinfection.
Downstream: The Application Market Is Wide and Scattered
Due to its special properties in acoustic, electrical, magnetic, and thermal, ePTFE membranes and their components have been widely used in automotive, consumer electronics, new energy, medical, clothing, industrial filtration, and aerospace.
The ePTFE market is a long-tail niche market that refers to a market with unserved demand and a basis for obtaining benefits, and generally has a higher gross profit margin; "long tail" refers to the ability to converge into a large market after expanding and developing many small markets. Therefore, the long-tail niche market refers to the convergence of many markets with little demand or a basis for profit. Most of the application fields of ePTFE membranes belong to niche markets. Because ePTFE membranes have a wide range of applications, the market space for all applications is still considerable, even if the market space for some applications is not large.
ePTFE membrane is used for the protection and ventilation of automotive electrical equipment. It mainly relies on its waterproof and ventilating properties to adjust the air humidity and pressure balance in the lamp and the housing of automotive electronic equipment, so that the automotive electrical equipment is not affected by the external harsh environment and maintains normal operation. In 2019, global automobile production was 91.786 million, and China's automobile production reached 25.721 million. However, according to the World Bank's data on the number of vehicles per thousand people in major countries, the number of vehicles per thousand people in China is only 170, and there is still a big gap compared with developed countries such as the US and Germany. In the future, as the domestic economy continues to grow, the people's income level increases, and the urbanization rate increases, it is expected that the automobile market still has certain development potential.
As high-end models such as Apple and Samsung have achieved the highest level of waterproof function, the waterproof function of mobile phones has begun to be favored by the industry. In the future, the waterproof function of smartphones, smart wearable devices, and other products will become the standard configuration, and ePTFE membranes have a large market space in this field.
The good waterproof and breathable performance of the ePTFE membrane has gradually attracted attention and application in high-tech fields such as aerospace. In order to control the humidity of the spacecraft, the Shenzhou V and Shenzhou VI spacecraft use high-efficiency hygroscopic materials to absorb water vapor in the air into liquid and store it in porous materials.
ePTFE membranes can be widely used in medical equipment, instruments, and tissue filling materials because of their non-toxic, non-sensitizing, and non-carcinogenic side effects. At present, it has been successfully applied in plastic surgery filling, heart valve surgery, small-caliber artificial blood vessels, and wound covering materials.
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