Poly-p-phenylene-2, 6-benzobisoxazole or PBO, is a heat resistant, high performance fiber. The rigid molecular chain structure of PBO consists of a benzene-fused oxazole ring structure. PBO fiber is also stated to be almost ten times stronger than steel. It is due to various properties of PBO, such as high tensile strength and creep resistance, that PBO fiber is considered to be the strongest synthetic fiber to date.
PBO fibers are difficult to manufacture due to the dry jet wet spinning process. The manufacturing of PBO is expensive and hence, PBO fiber is only manufactured for high-end applications, such as defense and sports goods. Apart from its strength, PBO is also heat resistant, possesses low flammability and is resistant to most organic solvents. However, exposure to strong chemicals, such as strongly acidic and basic solutions, results in loss of strength in case of PBO fibers. However, PBO is comparatively stronger than other synthetic fibers.
PBO fibers are mainly used to manufacture heat resistant garments (firefighting uniforms, safety gloves, etc.), bulletproof vests, high performance sporting goods (yacht ropes, snowboards, rider suits, bicycle spokes, competitive cycles meant for racing, etc.) and several materials used in the construction industry. PBO also finds applications as a conductive textile when coated with gold, silver and nickel.
Being lightweight and having high strength, the demand for PBO fibers is being driven by sports equipment manufacturers, especially tennis and table tennis. PBO fibers are stated to be almost ten times stronger than steel at only a fraction of its weight, making it a prime alternative for replacing steel rods and wire rigging. Adventure sports, such as water skiing and rock climbing, are gaining popularity. The PBO market is expected to grow in tandem with the popularity of such sports. Ropes are also applicable in marine activities, such as mooring and towing of vessels. Considering the strength of PBO, increasing seaborne trade will be a key factor that will drive the PBO market. Having been used as a material for space observation balloon by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), PBO can also be used in space exploration programs in future. The demand for optical fibers is increasing around the world and is expected to drive the PBO market along with it.
Following its development, PBO (widely known as zylon) was also used to make bulletproof vests as an alternative to Kevlar. However, it was found that PBO degrades in the presence of moisture and loses around 20% of its strength over a period of two years. Its high tensile strength drives the PBO market but its low environmental resistance may limit its growth.
Currently for outdoor applications, PBO fiber products have to be coated to avoid its degradation.
The PBO market can be segmented on the basis of type, availability, application and end use.
On the basis of type, the PBO market can be segmented into:
- Standard Modulus
- High Modulus
On the basis of availability, the PBO market can be segmented into:
- Chopped fiber
- Staple fiber
- Spun yarn
- Continuous filament
On the basis of applications, the PBO market can be segmented into:
- Sports wear
- Personal protective clothing
- Reinforcement fiber
- High tension rope
- High temperature filtration
On the basis of end use industry, the PBO market can be segmented into:
- Aerospace &Defense
- Lifting & rigging
- Oil & Gas
- Sporting goods
Regionally, Asia Pacific is expected to hold huge market share due to booming industrialization due to the presence of fastest growing economies, such as China and India. South Korea holds the majority share in the shipbuilding market. These factors will create opportunities in the Asia Pacific PBO market. Following Asia Pacific is the North America PBO market due to the increase in seaborne trade and a growing interest in adventure sports. Europe is a mature market and is expected to grow at a healthy rate. Latin America and Middle East & Africa will grow at an equal pace.
Some of the market participants in the global PBO market include Toyobo Co., Ltd., Fiber-line, EuroFibers BV and Applied Fiber Manufacturing LLC.
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