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What is Polyvinyl Butyral?

By Dennis Wilcox
Updated May 21, 2024
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Polyvinyl butyral is a resin widely used in glass manufacturing. It is used when very thin, transparent or colored adhesive films are required to make specialized glass such as safety glass and tinted glass. The resin's adhesive properties also help make glass panels that collect solar energy. It has many other adhesive applications, and it can be applied as a coating, even sometimes as a paint primer. Clothing dyes frequently make use polyvinyl butyral as well.

Though perhaps unaware of it, anyone who drives or rides in an automobile is a beneficiary of one of the major uses of polyvinyl butyral: safety glass. Polyvinyl butyral is applied as a film between two layers of tempered glass to produce the shatter-proof glass used in automobile windows. This is the glass that breaks into smooth-edged chunks instead jagged pieces in an accident. It is used widely in buildings, too.

Many automobiles and buildings also have tinted glass. This is because polyvinyl butyral, first used in the 1920s, can be produced in many colors with the addition of dyes and then applied between glass layers to provide the tinted effect. This application spurs the creativity of many architects to create buildings where the color and tint of glass play a large aesthetic role. The resin comes into play in the solar energy world because it is used in solar energy-collecting glass panels to help protect the circuitry between the panels that transforms the sun’s rays into electricity.

Adhesive applications are not limited to glass manufacturing applications, however. As an adhesive, polyvinyl butyral is used in pressure-sensitive adhesive tapes and for heat sealing. It is a major component of acetal phenolic glue, which can bind metals.

Many protective coatings are made of polyvinyl butyral because of its waterproofing and anticorrosion properties. These include coating on tents and overcoats, concrete, and leather. Several paint primers for metal contain polyvinyl butyral because of its bonding affinity with metal. In this capacity, it is used as primer on bridges, boats, and aircraft. It is sometimes used as a varnish on wood

The resin is also a frequent and useful component of clothing dyes and ink used to print on clothes. It helps prevent discoloration of dye,s which can occur with continuous washing. Use on fabric provides abrasion resistance, too.

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