Known as “super surfactants,” fluorosurfactants are used in a wide range of consumer and industrial applications in the coatings and ink industries. In comparison to more conventional hydrocarbon and silicone surfactants (commonly used and known as “wetting agents”), fluorosurfactants provide exceptionally low surface tensions and consequently superior performance in many surface tension-related phenomena. They greatly improve wetting, spreading, and leveling performances, especially on low surface tension, hard-to-wet substrates such as polyethylene films. Fluorosurfactants reduce the surface tension of waterborne coating systems down to 16 dyne/cm, versus 25 dyne/cm, typically achieved by hydrocarbon- or silicone-based surfactants.

Poor wetting, spreading, and leveling are characteristics of a coating system that often leads to common defects such as “fish eyes,” “craters,” “orange peel,” and “picture frames.” Not only do fluorosurfactants reduce or altogether prevent these defects, their exceptionally low surface tension also allows coating systems to overcome low surface tension contaminants, such as silicone, grease, and oil on the substrate. In short, the lower the surface tension (both equilibrium and dynamic) of the coating system, the better the wetting, spreading, and leveling effects achieved – with less or no coating defects.

Other advantages of fluorosurfactants are that they generally have better chemical and thermal stability than hydrocarbon-based surfactants; they can be used in applications requiring extreme pH conditions or temperatures typical to the metalworking and fire-fighting applications.

Some examples of fluorosurfactants’ useful effects and the major industries where they are used:

Fire-Fighting Foam: Spreading on liquid hydrocarbon; heat resistance
Paints and Coatings: Wetting; spreading; leveling; moisture/soil resistance
Printing Inks: Wetting; leveling; uniformity; moisture resistance
Adhesives: Wetting; spreading; leveling; penetration
Polymers: Emulsifier for fluoropolymers; mold release; lubricants
Metalworking: Wetting; chemical stability; scale removal
Mining: Dispersant; wetting; penetration