PEEK Polymer: Comprehensive Guide to Features and Applications

Dive into the world of Peek polymer, understanding its inherent strength and incredible versatility in construction, because it is revolutionizing the way we build.

Polyether ether ketone, commonly known as PEEK, is a marvel of modern material science, offering a combination of features that make it indispensable across various high-tech industries.

Renowned for its exceptional endurance against extreme temperatures and harsh chemical environments, PEEK’s robustness and lightweight nature make it the go-to choice for critical applications — from the depths of space in aerospace engineering to the core of human health in medical implants.

In this article, we delve into the synthesis of PEEK, understand the backbone of its durable properties that arise from its unique aromatic ring structure, and explore how its capabilities can be further boosted when combined with reinforcing fibers.

Discover the full spectrum of PEEK’s remarkable versatility and learn why it stands as a titan in the realm of high-performance polymers.

Key takeaways:

  • PEEK is a high-performance polymer with impressive heat tolerance and chemical resistance.
  • It has a high strength-to-weight ratio and is used in aerospace, automotive, medical, and electronics industries.
  • PEEK is synthesized through step-growth polymerization and its unique properties are due to its aromatic ring-based polymer chain.
  • It can withstand high temperatures, has excellent mechanical properties, and is resistant to chemicals and wear.
  • PEEK can be reinforced with fibers for enhanced performance in specific applications.

What You Will Learn

What Is PEEK – Polyetheretherketone?

what is peek – polyetheretherketone

Polyetheretherketone, commonly abbreviated as PEEK, is a high-performance engineering thermoplastic known for its impressive heat tolerance, chemical resistance, and mechanical properties. It maintains its structural integrity in harsh environments and high-temperature applications, where other materials might fail. PEEK can withstand temperatures up to 250°C (482°F) and is inherently flame retardant.

What sets PEEK apart is its versatility. This polymer’s strength-to-weight ratio is exceptional, making it a popular choice for aerospace, automotive, and medical industries. It resists hydrolysis, even under continuous exposure to hot water and steam, making it suitable for sterilization processes. It’s biocompatible, too, which is why it’s used for medical implants.

Its electrical insulating properties are stable over a wide range of temperatures and frequencies, which is valuable in the electronics sector. The polymer’s dimensional stability ensures components remain precise over their working life, essential for intricate applications.

PEEK’s unique properties are the result of its aromatic ring-based polymer chain, which gives the material its robustness. Though it may have a higher upfront cost compared to other plastics, its longevity and the reduction in replacement costs make it a cost-effective option in many high-end applications.

Synthesis of PEEK

synthesis of peek

Polyetheretherketone, or PEEK, is created through a process called step-growth polymerization. This involves two main steps: First, bisphenolate salts are prepared by the reaction of hydroquinone with an alkali metal hydroxide and 4,4′-difluorobenzophenone. Then, these salts undergo aromatic nucleophilic substitution with dichlorodiphenyl sulfone.

The result is a polymer chain with ketone and ether functional groups – the core components of PEEK. This structure is the source of its remarkable thermal stability and mechanical strength. The specifics of this process, such as reaction temperatures and the ratio of reactants, dictate the molecular weight and crystallinity of the polymer, ultimately influencing PEEK’s final properties.

PEEK’s synthesis is a fine-tuned chemical orchestration that leads to a material capable of withstanding harsh environments, making it a favorite for demanding applications in aerospace, medical implants, and the automotive industry. The understanding of this synthesis process is crucial for manipulating the material’s characteristics for its intended use.

Typical Performance Profile

PEEK stands out for its remarkable combination of properties that lend it versatility across various industries.

Its high melting point of around 343°C allows it to maintain mechanical properties at elevated temperatures, making it an excellent choice for demanding thermal environments. This polymer is also known for its exceptional chemical resistance, able to withstand harsh substances where other materials might fail.

With a tensile strength that rivals metals, PEEK can handle significant stress and strain without permanent deformation. This characteristic is particularly useful in aerospace and automotive applications where high-performance materials are essential. Its inherent flame retardancy and low smoke production upon combustion also make it a safe option for electrical and electronics applications.

Beyond its strength and durability, PEEK exhibits excellent wear and abrasion resistance, contributing to its longevity as a material in moving parts and gears. The material’s low moisture absorption rate ensures that its mechanical properties remain stable in humid conditions. Lastly, PEEK’s outstanding purity level meets the stringent requirements of the medical and semiconductor industries.

Property Comparison: PEEK Versions and Other High Heat Polymers

Understanding the unique qualities of PEEK in relation to other high-heat polymers is essential for making informed decisions regarding material selection in construction:

  • Temperature Tolerance: PEEK can withstand continuous exposure to high temperatures, typically up to 250°C (482°F), superior to many other thermoplastics.
  • Mechanical Strength: It maintains high strength and stiffness even at elevated temperatures, outshining polymers like nylon and PBT.
  • Chemical Resistance: This material resists a wide range of chemicals, including automotive fluids and aggressive cleaning agents, making it more durable in hostile environments compared to other plastics.
  • Wear and Friction: With low wear and friction characteristics, PEEK often exceeds the performance of fluoropolymers in demanding applications.
  • Hydrolysis Resistance: PEEK resists water absorption and degradation, giving it an edge over polyamides, which can be susceptible to moisture.
  • Electrical Properties: The polymer maintains excellent insulative properties across a broad range of temperatures and frequencies, surpassing many other high heat plastics.
  • Dimensional Stability: It exhibits minimal thermal expansion and a high resistance to creep, which can be a drawback in materials like PET when exposed to high thermal loads.

By comparing these characteristics, engineers can better assess which material is optimal for the specific requirements of their construction projects.

Neat Vs. Reinforced PEEK Version

Understanding the differences between neat and reinforced PEEK can help you select the best material for your specific application.

Neat PEEK, also known as unfilled PEEK, is the pure form of the polymer, celebrated for its high strength, thermal stability, and chemical resistance. It’s well-suited for applications in harsh environments, such as those found in the aerospace, automotive, and chemical processing industries.

When additional properties are required, PEEK can be reinforced with fibers like glass or carbon. These additives enhance the material’s performance:

  • Glass fiber reinforced PEEK offers improved dimensional stability and reduced creep, making it ideal for precision components that must maintain their shape over time under load.
  • Carbon fiber reinforced PEEK boosts the material’s mechanical strength and thermal conductivity. It’s significantly lighter and stiffer than neat PEEK, which makes it a favorite for high-performance applications in the aerospace and automotive sectors.
  • Other fillers like graphite or PTFE can be added to PEEK to enhance specific properties like lubricity or wear resistance.

It’s essential to match the reinforcement type with the application’s needs, considering factors such as the expected load, temperature range, chemical exposure, and wear conditions to ensure material longevity and performance.

PEEK Vs. Other High Heat Plastics

PEEK distinguishes itself from other high-heat plastics through its exceptional thermal stability, chemical resistance, and mechanical properties. It can withstand temperatures up to 260°C (500°F), outperforming many plastics such as nylon and PTFE. Moreover, PEEK’s resistance to degradation by chemicals, including hydrocarbons and acids, is superior to that of most plastics.

In terms of mechanical strength, PEEK competes with metals like aluminum and stainless steel, providing a lighter alternative without sacrificing durability. Its wear and friction characteristics are also advantageous for applications in demanding environments, where it outlasts other plastics.

When compared to other high-performance polymers like PSU, PPS, and PEI, PEEK generally offers better toughness and flexural strength. However, it often comes at a higher cost, which is justifiable for applications requiring its unique combination of high-temperature performance, mechanical strength, and chemical resilience. Choosing PEEK over other plastics ultimately depends on whether its superior properties are essential for the application’s environment and performance requirements.

PEEK Limitations

Despite its many advantages, it’s important to acknowledge that PEEK polymer isn’t perfect for every situation. Here are some of its limitations:

  • Cost: PEEK is a high-performance material, and this is reflected in its price. It’s significantly more expensive than many other plastics, limiting its use to applications where its specific properties are essential.
  • Processing Requirements: To process PEEK, high temperatures (around 343°C to 400°C) are required, which necessitates the use of specialized equipment. This can be a barrier for some manufacturers.
  • Wear in Certain Conditions: While PEEK has excellent wear resistance, in certain demanding environments, it can still wear, particularly against rough or abrasive surfaces.
  • UV Sensitivity: Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can degrade PEEK, causing a change in its mechanical properties and color.
  • Not Resistant to All Chemicals: Although PEEK is resistant to many chemicals, it can be attacked by concentrated sulfuric acid and other similarly aggressive substances.
  • Notching Sensitivity: PEEK can be sensitive to notch-induced stress concentration, which means it can fracture under repeated stress if there’s a surface flaw.

Understanding these limitations is crucial for engineers and designers when considering PEEK for applications to ensure that the chosen material aligns with the demands of the end use.

How Are PEEK Polymers Processed?

Processing PEEK polymers requires precise control over temperature and pressure due to their high melting point. Here are a few common methods used to shape PEEK into its final form:

Injection Molding: Melting PEEK granules are injected into a mold cavity where they cool and solidify. This method is suited for mass production of complex parts with tight tolerances. – Extrusion: This continuous process pushes melted PEEK through a die, creating long shapes like tubes, rods, or sheets. The extruded material is cooled and then cut to length. – 3D Printing: Also known as additive manufacturing, PEEK can be 3D printed using specialized printers. This technique is ideal for prototypes or components with intricate geometries.

Diverse applications and components demand different processing methods, and the choice of processing technique depends on the desired properties of the final PEEK product.

Injection Molding

Injection molding is a popular technique used to shape PEEK polymer into complex parts and components. This process involves melting the polymer and injecting it into a pre-designed mold at high pressure. Upon cooling, the material solidifies, taking the form of the mold cavity. PEEK’s outstanding flow characteristics make it ideal for this method, enabling the production of intricate designs with tight tolerances.

Key points to consider when using injection molding for PEEK:

  • Processing Temperature: PEEK requires a higher processing temperature compared to many other thermoplastics, usually in the range of 350°C to 400°C.
  • Mold Temperature: To reduce internal stresses and warp, controlling the mold temperature is crucial, typically set between 120°C and 180°C.
  • Equipment: Due to the high processing temperatures, specialized injection molding machines with heated components are necessary to handle PEEK.
  • Cooling Time: PEEK components need longer cooling times because of their high temperature resistance, which ensures proper solidification.
  • Shrinkage: Uniform and minimal shrinkage characteristics of PEEK allow for the creation of parts with precise dimensions.

Understanding these points helps manufacture robust, accurate, and high-quality PEEK components through injection molding.


Extrusion is a widely used manufacturing process for shaping PEEK polymers, where molten PEEK is forced through a die to create continuous lengths of plastic with a fixed cross-sectional profile. It is ideal for producing pipes, tubes, and sheets that capitalize on PEEK’s impressive mechanical, chemical, and thermal properties.

Key Points:

  • Temperature Control: Precise heating is critical to maintaining PEEK’s viscous flow, ensuring uniformity in finished products.
  • Die Design: The shape and complexity of the die determine the profile of the extruded product. Die design must accommodate PEEK’s properties to reduce defects like warping or improper crystallization.
  • Cooling: Post-extrusion, the material must be cooled under controlled conditions to avoid stresses and ensure dimensional accuracy.
  • Material Varieties: Both neat PEEK and its reinforced composites can undergo extrusion, allowing for versatility in the final material characteristics.

This process is integral for producing high-performance components used in the aerospace, automotive, and chemical processing industries. It allows for the creation of PEEK products that can perform under extreme conditions without compromising on quality or reliability.

D Printing

3D printing technology harnesses the unique properties of PEEK to create complex parts with high dimensional stability and excellent mechanical characteristics. This advanced manufacturing process involves heating the polymer to a semi-liquid state and then layering it precisely to build a three-dimensional object from a digital model.

PEEK’s robust thermal resistance ensures it does not degrade or lose its mechanical properties during the 3D printing process. As a result, parts created with PEEK exhibit long-term durability suitable for demanding applications in the aerospace, medical, and automotive industries.

For successful 3D printing with PEEK, consider the following:

  • Temperature Control: Ensure the printer can achieve and maintain the high temperatures required for PEEK, typically around 360°C to 400°C.
  • Build Platform: Use a heated build platform to prevent warping and to ensure good layer adhesion, normally set between 120°C to 160°C.
  • Speed and Precision: Adjust the print speed and layer height appropriately. Slower print speeds and finer layers can yield parts with better surface finish and higher detail resolution.
  • Environment: A controlled printing environment helps minimize temperature fluctuation, which could potentially affect print quality.

By understanding the particularities of printing with PEEK, manufacturers and hobbyists can exploit this material’s superior performance for prototypes and end-use components alike.

Victrex PEEK

Victrex, a leading producer of PEEK, offers high-performance polymer solutions that cater to a wide array of industries. Known for its durability and robustness, Victrex PEEK is often the material of choice for applications where extreme conditions are the norm.

  • High resistance to harsh chemicals and temperatures allows Victrex PEEK to perform well in demanding environments such as the aerospace and automotive sectors.
  • With excellent wear and friction properties, it is also preferred in the production of components like gears and bearings.
  • Its high purity levels make it suitable for use in medical implants and the semiconductor industry.
  • The versatility of Victrex PEEK is enhanced by the ability to modify its properties through fillers to meet specific application requirements.
  • It offers reliable performance and helps extend the lifetime of products, thereby reducing maintenance costs and downtime.

Victrex’s commitment to innovation ensures that their PEEK continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible in high-performance applications.

KetaSpire PEEK

KetaSpire PEEK is one of the premier offerings for high-performance thermoplastics, produced by Solvay Specialty Polymers. It boasts a unique combination of strength, stiffness, and thermal stability, making it a favorite for demanding applications.

Some of its key characteristics include:

  • Excellent chemical resistance: It can withstand a wide range of chemicals, reducing the risk of material degradation in harsh environments.
  • High melting point: With a melting point around 343°C (649°F), KetaSpire PEEK can be used in applications that experience high temperatures.
  • Superior mechanical properties: It provides strength and dimensional stability, which are crucial for precision components.
  • Great wear and abrasion resistance: This extends the lifespan of products and contributes to long-term cost savings.
  • Good purity: KetaSpire PEEK is available in a range of grades, including some that meet the requirements of the FDA and EU regulations for food contact, as well as medical grades that are biocompatible according to ISO 10993.
  • Versatile processing: It can be processed using typical thermoplastic methods like injection molding, extrusion, and also suitable for additive manufacturing.
  • Customizability: By varying fillers such as glass or carbon fibers, properties can be enhanced for specific applications, such as improving strength or reducing expansion rates.

These properties make KetaSpire PEEK particularly suited for industries like aerospace, automotive, chemical processing, and healthcare, where materials are required to perform reliably in demanding conditions.

PEEK Industrial Grades

PEEK polymers cater to a broad range of industrial applications thanks to their versatile grades, each engineered for specific performance requirements:

  • Unfilled PEEK is widely used where the inherent purity and performance of the polymer are needed without reinforcement. This material boasts excellent chemical resistance, mechanical properties, and thermal stability suitable for demanding environments.
  • Bearing Grade (BG) PEEK includes additives that lower the coefficient of friction and improve wear resistance. It’s ideal for precision bearings and other moving parts where reducing maintenance and extending the component’s life is critical.
  • GF30 PEEK (30% Glass-Filled) sees glass fibers incorporated to enhance mechanical and thermal properties, making the polymer more rigid and dimensionally stable. It shines in applications where loads are high and thermal expansion must be minimized.
  • CF30 PEEK (30% Carbon-Filled) contains carbon fibers, which increases the polymer’s strength, stiffness, and load-carrying capacity, while also offering improved thermal conductivity. This grade is optimal for lightweight, high-strength components in automotive, aerospace, and industrial machinery contexts.

Manufacturers choose the appropriate grade based on application-specific requirements, ensuring optimal performance in the environments where these materials will be used.

Industrial Grade Unfilled PEEK

Industrial Grade Unfilled PEEK provides a base level of the polymer’s inherent properties. It’s the purest form of PEEK, without added fibers or fillers that can enhance specific characteristics.

Here are a few key points to understand about this specific grade:

  • High Thermal Stability: It can withstand high temperatures, maintaining performance up to 260°C (500°F), which makes it suitable for high-heat environments.
  • Excellent Mechanical Strength: Even without reinforcements, it offers substantial mechanical strength and stiffness, suitable for various structural applications.
  • Chemical Resistance: It stands up well against a wide range of chemicals, making it a good candidate for harsh environments like chemical processing plants.
  • Biocompatibility: Because it doesn’t have additives, this grade is often preferred for medical applications, including implantable devices.
  • Wear and Tear Performance: It exhibits a good balance of wear resistance and low friction, beneficial for applications such as bushings and seals.
  • Machinability: It’s relatively easy to machine into complex shapes, which can be essential for custom parts and prototypes in various industries.

In applications requiring the unique combination of high-temperature performance, mechanical strength, and purity without the influence of fillers, Industrial Grade Unfilled PEEK is often the go-to choice.

Industrial Bearing Grade (BG) PEEK

Industrial Bearing Grade (BG) PEEK is tailored for applications requiring a balance of excellent wear and frictional properties. Here’s what makes it particularly suitable for bearing and wear applications:

  • Enhanced wear resistance: It possesses a superior capability to withstand wear and tear, which is crucial for parts in constant motion against each other.
  • Low coefficient of friction: Its self-lubricating nature ensures smooth operation under high-stress conditions, minimizing the need for external lubrication.
  • High-temperature endurance: It maintains mechanical strength and dimensional stability even at elevated temperatures, ensuring reliability in harsh environments.
  • Excellent chemical resistance: This material stands up to a broad range of chemicals, making it a good fit for industries where corrosive substances are present.
  • Easy machineability: Despite its robustness, it can be precisely machined into complex shapes and sizes for various uses, from small intricate components to substantial industrial parts.

Such properties make Industrial Bearing Grade PEEK an ideal choice for high-performance bearings, seals, piston parts, and valve components across aerospace, automotive, and chemical processing industries.

Industrial Grade GF30 PEEK

Industrial Grade GF30 PEEK enhances the already impressive qualities of neat PEEK by incorporating glass fibers, which make up 30% of the material. This represents a strategic design choice in polymer reinforcement. The addition of glass fibers serves multiple functions:

  • Increases Rigidity & Dimensional Stability: Glass fibers boost the material’s structural integrity, making it sturdier and less prone to warping under stress or high temperatures.
  • Enhances Mechanical Properties: With glass reinforcement, the polymer exhibits higher tensile strength and improved fatigue resistance—vital for applications that bear heavy loads or undergo repetitive motion.
  • Improved Thermal Performance: The thermal endurance of PEEK is elevated, allowing the material to maintain its properties at higher continuous-use temperatures.
  • Cost-Effective: By adding glass fibers, it is possible to produce parts with enhanced performance at a lower price point compared to using pure PEEK or other high-performance polymers.

It’s important to note that while glass fibers improve certain properties, they also make the material more abrasive and can increase wear on processing equipment. Industries typically use GF30 PEEK in scenarios where a balance between mechanical strength, thermal stability, and cost efficiency is required, such as in automotive, aerospace, and industrial machinery components.

Industrial Grade CF30 PEEK

Industrial Grade CF30 PEEK is reinforced with 30% carbon fiber, enhancing its stiffness, thermal conductivity, and load capacity. This combination results in a material ideally suited for applications that operate under high mechanical stress and require excellent dimensional stability.

Components made from this grade are recognizable by their distinct black color.

Key features include:

  • Increased Strength: Carbon fibers boost the material’s tensile and flexural strength, making it capable of bearing heavier loads.
  • Improved Wear Resistance: The carbon fiber reinforcement leads to a lower coefficient of friction and improved wear properties, which is crucial for parts with sliding or rotating movements.
  • Enhanced Thermal Properties: Higher thermal conductivity aids in dissipating heat quickly, expanding the range of temperatures where the material can perform reliably.
  • Dimensional Stability: Less prone to expansion and contraction with temperature fluctuations, it maintains its shape and tight tolerances even in challenging environments.

These traits make Industrial Grade CF30 PEEK ideal for advanced engineering applications, such as aerospace components, high-performance automotive parts, and precision industrial machinery.

Shape-memory PEEK in Biomechanical Applications

Shape-memory polymers have the remarkable ability to recover their original shape after deformation when exposed to an external stimulus, such as temperature change. In the realm of biomechanical applications, this property of PEEK offers several advantages:

  • Customized Fit: Implants made with shape-memory PEEK can be easily compressed for minimally invasive insertion and then expand to conform to the surrounding biological tissues once in place, ensuring a better fit and integration.
  • Less Invasive Procedures: The material’s capacity to change shape at body temperature allows for less invasive surgical techniques, which can reduce recovery times and improve patient comfort.
  • Potential in Self-Healing: Research into PEEK’s shape-memory polymers has the potential to lead to self-healing materials. These could be particularly useful for dynamic or load-bearing implants, which experience regular stress.
  • Adaptability and Resilience: The capacity to undergo significant deformation before returning to an original shape allows for long-term durability in dynamic physiological environments.

Shape-memory PEEK’s unique characteristics offer innovative solutions that could revolutionize specific medical procedures and improve the patient experience.

Polyetheretherketone- Chemical Compound (PEEK)

Polyetheretherketone, commonly abbreviated as PEEK, is a high-performance engineering thermoplastic. Distinguished by its impressive mechanical strength and chemical resistance, it stands out as a material suitable for challenging environments.

Here’s a breakdown of PEEK’s notable characteristics:

  • Thermal Stability: It can withstand temperatures up to 250°C continuously and even higher for short periods without significantly degrading.
  • Chemical Resistance: Resilient against a wide range of chemicals including hydrocarbons, organic solvents, and even some acids.
  • Mechanical Strength: Offers an excellent balance of stiffness, strength, and toughness, making it a go-to for load-bearing applications.
  • Biocompatibility: Certain grades of PEEK are compatible with human tissues, making them ideal for medical implants.
  • Wear and Abrasion Resistance: Its low coefficient of friction and high abrasion resistance make it a preferred material for sliding or wear applications.
  • Ease of Processing: It can be molded and machined with precision, which allows for high-quality finished components.

PEEK’s versatility and durability make it invaluable across various industries, including aerospace, automotive, and healthcare. While it can be more costly than some other plastics, its durability often translates to long-term cost savings through reduced maintenance and longer service life.


What is PEEK polymer used for?

PEEK polymer is commonly utilized for constructing durable items like bearings, piston parts, pumps, HPLC columns, compressor plate valves, and cable insulation, thanks to its compatibility even with ultra-high vacuum applications.

What are the disadvantages of PEEK polymer?

The disadvantages of PEEK polymer include its insufficient mechanical strength, lack of secondary processing ability, and poor biological activity.

Why is PEEK plastic so expensive?

PEEK plastic is so expensive due to its high temperature resistance and high tensile strength that makes it machine more like a metal than a polymer.

Is PEEK plastic safe?

Yes, Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) plastic is safe, as it can be used for direct contact with delicate foods during the production process.

How is the manufacturing process of PEEK polymer carried out?

The manufacturing process of PEEK (Polyether Ether Ketone) polymer is typically carried out through step-growth polymerization, involving the repetitive condensation of bisphenol salts and difluorobenzene in high-temperature conditions to build the polymer chains.

What are the unique properties of PEEK polymer that differentiate it from other polymers used in construction?

PEEK (Polyether Ether Ketone) polymer differentiates itself from other polymers used in construction due to its superior chemical resistance, high temperature stability, excellent mechanical properties, and minimal smoke or toxic gas emission when exposed to flame.

Can PEEK polymer be effectively recycled, and if so, how does this process work?

Yes, PEEK (Polyether Ether Ketone) polymer can be effectively recycled through processes such as pyrolysis or solvolysis, converting waste material back into usable raw polymer, or repurposing into other forms of plastic products.

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