Unravelling Polymers

The Definitive Blog on Polymers by Poly Fluoro Ltd.

Advancements in Aerospace - High-Performance Plastics Take Flight

Along with the medical industry, the aerospace industry is peculiar in that it demands materials with a variety of capabilities and does not often see cost as a key criterion as long as the key properties are met.

Aerospace parts must be able withstand extreme conditions while maintaining lightweight properties to enhance performance and fuel efficiency. There is also no leeway on quality, as the parts must conform to the requirements 100% of the time over a prolonged period of time.

While many polymers are well suited to be applied to the aerospace industry, the stringent quality requirements have meant that in order to prove themselves, polymers have had to go through multiple long-cycle test to be found worthy.

In recent years, many high-performance plastics have emerged in this way and have become essential components in aerospace applications. These polymers offer a unique combination of durability, versatility, and weight reduction. Among these materials, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), polyether ether ketone (PEEK), polyimide, Ultem, and polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) have garnered significant attention for their diverse applications in aircraft design and manufacturing. This article explores the various roles and benefits of these high-performance plastics in aerospace technology.

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE):

PTFE, commonly known by the brand name Teflon, is renowned for its low friction, chemical resistance, and high-temperature stability. Although much heavier than most polymers – PTFE’s specific gravity of 2.2 makes it only slightly lighter than aluminium – PTFE’s properties make it wildly useful in high-stress applications.

In aerospace applications, PTFE finds extensive use in critical components such as seals, bearings, and electrical insulation. Its exceptional lubricity allows for smooth movement in mechanical systems, reducing wear and frictional losses. Additionally, PTFE's resistance to corrosion and harsh chemicals makes it an ideal material for seals and gaskets in hydraulic systems, ensuring reliability and longevity in aircraft operations.

PTFE is also extensively used in its expanded for. Expanded PTFE (ePTFE) is a unique material that is pure PTFE, but that can be made with a specific gravity as low as 0.3. This material lends itself to gasket applications and can form an effective seal at very low pressures. So sought after is ePTFE in aerospace that exists a specific aerospace standard - AMS3660E – that defines the properties of the material needed when being used in aircrafts.

Polyether Ether Ketone (PEEK):

PEEK is a high-performance thermoplastic known for its excellent mechanical properties, including high strength, stiffness, and heat resistance. These characteristics make PEEK an attractive material for aerospace applications where structural integrity and reliability are paramount. In aircraft construction, PEEK is used in components such as brackets, fasteners, and interior panels, offering lightweight alternatives to metal counterparts without compromising performance. Its ability to withstand high temperatures and harsh environments makes PEEK an ideal choice for engine components, including seals, bearings, and insulation, contributing to enhanced efficiency and durability in aircraft propulsion systems.

PEEK is also very lightweight. In aerospace, where weight reduction is paramount, PEEK – which at a specific gravity of 1.35 is half the weight of aluminium – brings a very impressive weight to strength ratio that allows it to be used as a metal replacement part in many applications within aerospace and even beyond.


Polyimide, also known as Kapton or Vespel, is a versatile polymer prized for its exceptional thermal stability, electrical insulation, and chemical resistance. In aerospace technology, polyimide films and coatings find widespread use in electrical wiring, insulation, and thermal protection applications. Its ability to withstand extreme temperatures ranging from -269°C to over 400°C makes polyimide an indispensable material for spacecraft, satellites, and aircraft exposed to harsh environmental conditions. 

Like PEEK, Polyimide's lightweight nature and flexibility enable the design of compact and efficient electrical systems, reducing overall weight and improving fuel efficiency in aerospace vehicles.


Ultem, or PEI, is a high-temperature thermoplastic resin, offering a unique combination of strength, heat resistance, and flame retardancy, making it suitable for a wide range of aerospace applications. Its exceptional mechanical properties, including high modulus and impact resistance, make Ultem an ideal material for structural components, including brackets, housings, and interior panels in aircraft and spacecraft. Ultem's ability to maintain dimensional stability at elevated temperatures ensures reliable performance in demanding environments, such as engine compartments and cabin interiors. Furthermore, Ultem's flame-retardant properties enhance safety in aerospace applications, mitigating the risk of fire propagation and ensuring compliance with stringent regulatory standards.

Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF):

PVDF is a high-performance fluoropolymer known for its exceptional chemical resistance, UV stability, and mechanical properties. In aerospace technology, PVDF finds diverse applications in areas such as fuel systems, coatings, and structural components. Its resistance to harsh chemicals and weathering makes PVDF an ideal material for fuel lines, tanks, and seals, ensuring the integrity and reliability of aerospace propulsion systems. Additionally, PVDF coatings provide durable protection against corrosion and erosion in aircraft structures, extending the service life of critical components and reducing maintenance requirements. PVDF's lightweight nature and ease of processing offer design flexibility and cost-effective solutions for aerospace manufacturers seeking to optimize performance and efficiency.


High-performance plastics such as PTFE, PEEK, polyimide, Ultem, and PVDF have revolutionized aerospace technology, offering lightweight, durable, and versatile solutions for a wide range of applications. From structural components to electrical systems and thermal protection, these materials play essential roles in enhancing the performance, efficiency, and safety of aircraft and spacecraft. As aerospace engineering continues to advance, high-performance plastics will remain integral to the development of innovative solutions that push the boundaries of flight and exploration.

Read More

1. Enhancing Electrical Systems: The Versatility of PTFE Busbar Supports

2. Enhancing PTFE Performance - Ekanol, ATSP and their synergies in PTFE properties

3. Optimizing Solar Tracker Bearings for Enhanced Solar Energy Harvesting


Leave a reply

Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.