Glycol ethers are solvents based on alkyl ethers of ethylene/propylene glycol. These solvents have high boiling points and solvent properties of low-molecular-weight ethers and alcohols. Glycol ethers were formerly known as ethyl cellosolves. The word ‘cellosolve’ was registered by Union Carbide Corp. for solvents used for gums, resins, and cellulose esters as a U.S. trademark in 1924. Then, the name was changed to glycol ethers. Glycol ethers is a family of more than 30 solvents. Glycol ethers can provide benefits such as improved wetting properties of water-based products, long-term stability and good shelf-life of products, allowance to work at low concentrations, and little or no odor.
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Glycol ethers are of two types: E-series and P-series, depending on whether they are made from ethylene oxide or propylene oxide. Ethylene oxide is reacted with various alcohols such as methanol, n-butanol, and phenol to produce E-series glycol ethers. Ethylene oxide when reacted with n-butanol yields butyl cellosolve (ethylene glycol n-butyl ether). The word butyl designates alcohol from which glycol ether is produced as n-butanol. Butyl cellosolve contains an alcohol group. It can be reacted with additional ethylene oxide to yield di-ethylene glycol butyl ether.E-series glycol ethers are used in medicines, sunscreens, cosmetics, inks, dyes, and water-based paints. P-series glycol ethers are used in de-greasers, aerosol paints, cleaners, and adhesives. Both E-series glycol ethers and P-series glycol ethers are used as intermediates to undergo further chemical reactions to produce glycol di-ethers and glycol ether acetates. Paints and coatings witness high demand globally.
The properties and composition of E-series glycol ether makes it an essential component of different types of coatings. Types of coatings include but are not limited to oil coatings, marine coatings, and wood coatings. A major property of E-series glycol ether is good solubility in water and most organic solvents and oils. Glycol ethers do not accumulate in the environment. They get broken down in the air and aquatic environment within hours through photolysis. All of them are inherently biodegradable and most of them are readily biodegradable. They get biodegraded within hours in a waste water treatment plant and within days in the environment. Glycol ethers used in consumer products or for professional applications are extensively tested. If used in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions and if kept under the right conditions, they present no risk to health. The two of the E-series glycol ethers viz. methoxyethanol and ethoxyethanol are known to be toxic for reproduction in humans. For this reason, their use in the production of consumer products has been restricted globally.
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The E-series glycol ether market can be segmented by type into: EGPE (ethylene glycol propyl ether), EGBE (ethylene glycol butyl ether), EGBEA (ethylene glycol butyl ether acetate), and others; by application into paints & coatings, printing inks, cleaners, cosmetics & pharmaceuticals, and others; and by region into North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Middle East & Africa.
The Asia Pacific E-series glycol ether market is expected to witness high growth during the forecast period, due to the increased rate of its adoption in paints and coatings. South Korea is an emerging market for E-series glycol ether in the region. Asia Pacific is closely followed by North America.