For the cinema film, see the article Polyester (film).
SEM picture of a bend in a high surface area polyester fiber with a seven-lobed cross sectionPolyester is a category of polymers, or, more specifically condensation polymers, which contain the ester functional group in their main chain. Usually, polyester refers to cloth woven from polyester fiber. Polyester clothing is generally considered to have a "less natural" feeling to it compared to natural fibers. Polyester fibers are often spun together with fibers of cotton, producing a cloth with some of the better properties of each.

Close-up of a polyester shirtAlthough polyesters do exist in nature (e.g., in the cutin of the plant cuticle), polyester generally refers to the large family of synthetic polyesters (plastics) which includes polycarbonate and above all polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PET is one of the most important thermoplastic polyesters.

Polyester is combustible but due to its thermoplastic nature, it tends to shrink away from the flame source and often self-extinguishes.

Polyester is the most widely used manufactured fiber in the United States. Woven fabrics are used for apparel and home furnishings. These include bed sheets, bedspreads, curtains and draperies. Polyester used in knitted fabrics include shirts and blouses. Fiberfill is also used to stuff pillows, comforters and cushion padding. One such fabric is Crimplene.

The first synthetic polyester, glycerine phthalate, was used in the First World War for waterproofing. Natural polyesters have been known since around 1830. The world's largest supplier of unsaturated polyester resin is Reichhold. Reichhold Website

Polyesters are used to make bottles, films, liquid crystal displays, holograms, filters, dielectric film for capacitors, film insulation for wire and insulating tapes.

Liquid crystalline polyesters are among the first industrially used liquid crystalline polymers. In general they have extremely good mechanical properties and are extremely heat resistant. For that reason, they can be used as an abradable seal in jet engines.

Thermosetting polyester resins are commonly used as casting materials, fiberglass laminating resins, and non-metallic auto-body fillers. In such applications, polymerization and cross-linking are initiated through an exothermic reaction involving an organic peroxide, such as methyl ethyl ketone peroxide or benzoyl peroxide.

Polyester is also widely used as a finish on high-quality wooden products like guitars, pianos and vehicle/yacht interiors (Burns Guitars, Rolls Royce and Sunseeker are examples of companies that use polyester on their products). The thixotropic properties of the sprayable form of polyester make it ideal for use on open grain timbers as it can quickly fill the grain and has a high build film thickness per coat. The cured polyester can then be sanded and polished to a high-gloss, durable finish.

Terylene was the first polyester fiber and was produced in England. It was brought to the U.S. in 1951 by DuPont under the trade name Dacron.

Synthesis of polyesters is generally achieved by a polycondensation reaction. See "condensation reactions in polymer chemistry".

Azeotrope esterification
In this classical method an alcohol and a carboxylic acid react to form a carboxylic ester. To assemble a polymer, the water formed by the reaction must be continually removed by azeotrope distillation.

Alcoholic transesterification
See main article on transesterification.

           C - OCH3  +  OH[Oligomer2]
           C - O[Oligomer2]  + CH3OH
(ester-terminated oligomer + alcohol-terminated oligomer)   (larger oligomer + methanol)

Acylation (HCl method)
The acid begins as an acid chloride, and thus the polycondensation proceeds with emission of hydrochloric acid (HCl) instead of water. This method can be carried out in solution or as an enamel.

Silyl method
In this variant of the HCl method, the carboxylic acid chloride is converted with the trimethyl silyl ether of the alcohol component; trimethyl silyl chloride is produced.

Acetate method (esterification)
Silyl acetate method

Ring-opening Polymerization
Aliphatic polyesters can be assembled from lactones under very mild conditions, catalyzed anionically, cationically or metallorganically.