What is a Fluoroelastomer?

Fluoroelastomers, a class of synthetic rubber, stand out for their exceptional performance under extreme conditions. Known for their robust resistance to high temperatures, chemicals, and oils, these materials play a crucial role in various industries. From automotive to aerospace and chemical processing, fluoroelastomers ensure reliability and durability of components like seals, hoses, and gaskets. This introduction to fluoroelastomers aims to unveil their key characteristics and the wide spectrum of their industrial applications, highlighting why they are a material of choice for challenging environments.

What is a Fluoroelastomer

Definition and Composition

Fluoroelastomers are synthetic rubbers crafted from fluorine, carbon, and hydrogen. These elements combine to form a material renowned for its exceptional resistance to extreme temperatures, chemicals, and oil. The unique chemical structure of fluoroelastomers gives them their remarkable properties, setting them apart from other elastomers in terms of performance in harsh environments.

Classifications of Fluoroelastomers

The world of fluoroelastomers is diverse, with several classifications based on their chemical composition and resultant properties. One common type is the vinylidene fluoride/hexafluoropropylene (VDF/HFP) copolymer. This variant is prized for its balance of chemical resistance and flexibility, making it ideal for automotive fuel systems and industrial seals.

Terpolymers, another classification, include a third monomer added to the VDF/HFP base, such as tetrafluoroethylene (TFE). This addition enhances the material’s resistance to even more aggressive chemicals and temperatures, suiting it for applications in the chemical processing and aerospace industries.

Each type of fluoroelastomer serves a specific purpose, chosen based on the demands of the application. Whether the need is for superior chemical resistance, high-temperature performance, or a balance of both, there’s a fluoroelastomer classification designed to meet those exact requirements. Understanding these categories and their uses helps engineers and designers select the right material for their projects, ensuring optimal performance and longevity of the end product.

Fluoroelastomer Key Features

Fluoroelastomers boast a set of properties that make them stand out in the realm of synthetic rubbers. These materials excel in environments where other elastomers would fail, thanks to their high-temperature stability, superior chemical and oil resistance, and low permeability. Let’s delve into these key features and understand how they contribute to the performance of fluoroelastomers under extreme conditions.

High-Temperature Stability

One of the hallmark characteristics of fluoroelastomers is their ability to maintain physical integrity and mechanical properties at elevated temperatures. Unlike many other materials, fluoroelastomers can withstand continuous exposure to temperatures well above 200°C (392°F), with some specialty grades performing reliably at temperatures exceeding 300°C (572°F). This high-temperature stability is crucial for applications in automotive, aerospace, and industrial sectors where components are regularly subjected to intense heat.

Chemical Resistance

Fluoroelastomers are virtually impervious to a wide array of chemicals, including oils, fuels, solvents, and aggressive industrial fluids. This resistance stems from their highly fluorinated polymer structure, which repels chemical attacks and prevents degradation. Such chemical inertness makes fluoroelastomers ideal for seals, gaskets, and hoses used in chemical processing plants, oil and gas production, and the automotive industry, where exposure to harsh chemicals is a common challenge.

Oil Resistance

In addition to their broad chemical resistance, fluoroelastomers exhibit outstanding resistance to petroleum-based oils and fuels. This property is particularly valuable in the automotive and aerospace industries, where elastomer components come into direct contact with oil and fuel. The ability of fluoroelastomers to resist swelling and degradation when exposed to these substances ensures the longevity and reliability of critical components like fuel system seals and engine gaskets.

Low Permeability

The low permeability of fluoroelastomers to gases and liquids is another key advantage. This feature is essential in applications requiring tight seals to prevent leakage and contamination, such as in fuel systems and chemical containers. By minimizing the diffusion of substances through the material, fluoroelastomers help maintain the integrity of the system and protect the environment from emissions and leaks.

These properties collectively make fluoroelastomers the material of choice for applications demanding durability, reliability, and performance under extreme conditions. Whether it’s resisting the corrosive effects of chemicals, enduring the rigors of high temperatures, or providing impermeable seals, fluoroelastomers deliver unmatched performance where other materials fall short.

Fluoroelastomer Application Areas

Fluoroelastomers play a pivotal role in a wide range of industries, thanks to their exceptional properties. From automotive to aerospace, chemical processing, oil and gas, and power generation, these materials offer solutions that significantly enhance the performance and reliability of various applications.

Automotive Industry

In the automotive sector, fluoroelastomers are integral to the design of fuel systems. They are used in fuel injector O-rings, fuel hose linings, and seals within the fuel handling system. Their resistance to high temperatures and aggressive chemicals like fuel additives ensures that these components offer long-lasting performance, reducing the need for frequent replacements and enhancing vehicle reliability.


The aerospace industry demands materials that can withstand extreme conditions. Fluoroelastomers are used in seals, gaskets, and hoses within aircraft engines and fuel systems, where they encounter high temperatures and exposure to jet fuels and lubricants. Their durability under these conditions helps ensure the safety and efficiency of aerospace operations.

Chemical Processing

Fluoroelastomers are critical in the chemical processing industry, where seals and gaskets must resist a broad range of aggressive chemicals. They are chosen for their ability to maintain integrity in the presence of corrosive fluids, helping to prevent leaks and contamination in chemical plants and processing equipment.

Oil and Gas

In oil and gas applications, fluoroelastomers are used in seals, packings, and hoses that are exposed to crude oil, natural gas, and the harsh chemicals used in drilling and extraction processes. Their oil and chemical resistance is crucial for maintaining the safety and efficiency of operations in this sector.

Power Generation

For the power generation industry, fluoroelastomers are used in components that must endure high temperatures and resist the effects of fuels and coolants. Their application in seals and gaskets helps ensure the reliability of power generation systems, including those in nuclear, coal, and gas-powered plants.

Across these industries, fluoroelastomers provide essential solutions that address the challenges of operating under extreme conditions. Their unique combination of high-temperature stability, chemical resistance, and low permeability makes them indispensable for applications requiring the highest levels of performance and reliability.

Comparison with Other Elastomers

Fluoroelastomers stand out for their exceptional properties, especially when compared to other elastomers like silicone and natural rubber. Each type of elastomer has its unique set of characteristics that make it suitable for specific applications.

Silicone vs. Fluoroelastomer

Silicone elastomers are known for their wide temperature range, excellent electrical insulation, and flexibility. However, fluoroelastomers excel in environments where chemical resistance and high-temperature stability are paramount. While silicone is ideal for applications requiring biocompatibility and outdoor durability, fluoroelastomers are the go-to choice for aggressive chemical exposures and extreme heat conditions, such as in automotive fuel systems and industrial seals.

Natural Rubber vs. Fluoroelastomer

Natural rubber offers good elasticity and abrasion resistance, making it suitable for products like tires and gaskets. However, its chemical and temperature resistance is limited compared to fluoroelastomers. Fluoroelastomers outperform natural rubber in harsh industrial environments, where resistance to high temperatures, oils, and chemicals is necessary. This makes fluoroelastomers indispensable in the chemical processing, aerospace, and automotive industries.

Fluoroelastomers’ unique advantages under specific conditions—such as exceptional durability in the presence of harsh chemicals and extreme temperatures—highlight their importance in applications where other elastomers would fail.

Environmental and Health Considerations

The use of fluoroelastomers, like any synthetic material, raises environmental and health considerations, particularly regarding their production and disposal.

Environmental Impact

The production of fluoroelastomers involves processes that require energy and produce emissions. However, their long service life and resistance to harsh conditions can lead to less frequent replacements and, consequently, a lower overall environmental impact. Proper disposal and recycling of fluoroelastomer products are essential to minimize their footprint. While recycling options are limited, ongoing research aims to improve the sustainability of these materials.

Health and Safety Standards

Handling and disposing of fluoroelastomers require adherence to health and safety standards to protect workers and the environment. Although fluoroelastomers are generally stable and non-toxic under normal conditions, their decomposition at high temperatures can release hazardous compounds. Therefore, industries using fluoroelastomers follow strict guidelines to ensure safe manufacturing, use, and disposal practices.


Fluoroelastomers offer unmatched benefits in modern industry, providing exceptional resistance to chemicals, high temperatures, and oils. Their unique properties make them indispensable in applications where durability and performance under extreme conditions are critical. From automotive to aerospace and chemical processing, fluoroelastomers ensure the reliability and longevity of components, contributing significantly to operational efficiency and safety. Selecting the right material based on specific application needs is crucial, and fluoroelastomers stand out as the superior choice for challenging environments. Their role in advancing technology and enhancing industrial capabilities underscores their value in today’s fast-paced, demanding sectors.


What are fluoroelastomer used for?

Fluoroelastomers are primarily used in applications requiring seals and barrier layers that can withstand environments too harsh for other elastomers. These components are crucial in maintaining long service life at temperatures above 150°C (302°F), with specialty grades enduring beyond 300°C (572°F). Their widespread adoption is due to their resistance to a vast array of fluids, tailored through specific polymer compositions and curing processes for different environments. This low permeability and reliable performance have led to their increased use in reducing emissions within the chemical processing and transportation sectors. The largest market for fluoroelastomers is in the automotive industry, where they are essential in drive train and fuel handling systems, including O-rings, gaskets, and hoses. Initially used in aircraft and aerospace for engine and fuel system seals, their application has expanded to automotive fuel injector seals and chemical processing, where their resistance to aggressive fluids under severe conditions is invaluable. Fluoroelastomer shaft seals have also become more common in automotive applications, designed to meet increasing temperature demands and stringent lifetime expectations without significant leakage. Additionally, fluoroelastomers are being employed in gaskets and packing to seal against high-temperature fluids for extended periods, as well as in hoses and fabric coatings for environmental protection efforts across various industries.

Is fluoroelastomer the same as silicone?

Fluoroelastomer and silicone rubber are distinct types of elastomers, each with unique properties catering to different industrial applications. Fluoroelastomer, also referred to as fluorocarbon rubber or FKM, is celebrated for its outstanding chemical and high temperature resistance, making it ideal for use in harsh environments. Its durability is especially valued in the automotive and aerospace sectors for components like seals and gaskets that face rigorous conditions. Silicone rubber, in contrast, excels in heat resistance, weatherability, and electrical insulation. This makes it the preferred choice for electrical insulators, high-temperature gaskets, and various seals in electronics and household appliances. Therefore, while both materials offer high performance, the choice between fluoroelastomer and silicone rubber ultimately depends on the specific requirements of the application, such as the need for chemical resistance and durability versus heat resistance and electrical properties.

Is fluoroelastomer toxic?

Fluoroelastomers are widely regarded as non-toxic, especially in their solid form as used in various applications. The concern around toxicity in materials often relates to substances like PFOA and PFOS, which are known contaminants in drinking water and have raised health concerns. However, fluoroelastomers differ significantly from these substances. There is a substantial body of evidence indicating that fluoroelastomers do not pose toxic risks, making them safe for use in many industrial and consumer applications. This safety profile allows fluoroelastomers to be employed confidently in environments where they come into contact with humans or sensitive products, underlining their suitability and reliability in diverse applications.