Industrial polymers are used in most common items that we use every day. These synthetic polymers are man-made polymers are commonly classified into 4 different categories. These include thermoplastics, synthetic fibers, elastomers, and thermosets. These can be used in a variety of different applications from household items to military grade accessories. Understanding the many different types of polymers can give you a better understanding of what your everyday items are made of. Today we are going to look at 7 interesting industrial polymers used by companies that you can view here and how they are changing the world.
Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
The first polymer on our list, low-density polyethylene, is a thermoplastic that is made from ethylene, which is a popular monomer. It has been produced since 1933 using the free radical polymerization process to this day. Low-density polyethylene, or LPDE for short, is the most important plastic grade, making up the largest part of the polymer market.
The reason LPDE is so popular is that it has excellent resistance to most esters, alcohols, bases, and acids. It also has good resistance to ketones, vegetable oils, and aldehydes.
LPDE products can be found just about everywhere you find plastic. Some of it’s most common applications are going to include dispensing bottles, plastic bags used in the tech field, molded laboratory equipment, and it’s a most common use, the plastic bag. LPDE has and continues to change the world allowing for easier manufacturing and long lasting products.
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Now that we have looked at low-density polyethylene, let’s take a look at high-density polyethylene or HDPE. HDPE is also produced from ethylene but takes on the characteristics of a thermoplastic polymer. The production process of HDPE allows for a high strength to density ratio making it a great use for plastic bottles, plastic lumber, and even corrosion-resistant piping.
HPDE is resistant to a variety of solvents which helps make it more universal in different applications.
HPDE is usually found in many plastics that need extra strength. You will notice HPDE in common applications such as natural gas systems, water pipes, storage sheds, plastic surgery, fuel tanks, and many more. They are also used in landfills for cell liners to create a chemical resistant barrier.
Polypropylene, PP, is commonly referred to as polypropene and is considered a thermoplastic polymer. PP uses a chain-growth polymerization from a common monomer known as propylene to be produced. Belonging to the group of polyolefins, PP is also non-polar and partially crystalline. When compared to polyethylene, it is quite similar, however, it is a little bit harder and tends to be more resistant to heat.
PP is going to be found in items that need to be resistant to corrosion and chemical teaching. It is very resistant to fatigue which makes it a great fit for flip top bottles where the plastic acts as a hinge. You will also find PP in food containers, chairs, disposable bottles, and other hard, food grade plastics.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
One of the most commonly known polymers on our list is going to be polyvinyl chloride. Polyvinyl chloride, more commonly known as PVC, then the third most widely produced plastic polymer. It is found in a rigid form and a flexible form, both used commonly in households.
Rigid PVC is most popular in the construction industry where it is used for pipes, and profiles for windows and doors. You will also find it used in bottles, bank cards, and non-food packaging.
By adding plasticizers, the PVC becomes more flexible, allowing its use to expand to places where it can replace rubber components. Flexible PVC is used for flooring, signs, electrical cable insulation, and even plumbing.
It is also found in a pure form which takes on a white, brittle solid structure that is insoluble in alcohol.
Polystyrene, PS, is made from styrene and is considered a synthetic aromatic hydrocarbon polymer. It can be found as a solid or foamed, but is most commonly formed into a clear, hard, brittle plastic. Being one of the most popular plastics in the world, it is cheap to produce but has a very low melting point.
Polystyrene is commonly found in the uses of packing peanuts, plastic cutlery, cd cases, bottles, and other transparent plastics. Colourants can be used to help the plastics take on a different shade of colour.
PS has been the topic of controversy within the environmentalist crowd as it is slow to biodegrade. Products that are PS based are commonly found in many waterways, parks, and have been found in large quantities in the Pacific Ocean.
As the first commercially successful synthetic thermoplastic polymer, is has been one of the most popular polymers to be used in the industrial field. Nylon itself is basically a generic name for a group of synthetic polymers. It is a thermoplastic silky material that can be melted into shapes, films, or fibres.
It’s first use commercially came in 1938 where it was used to create a nylon-bristled toothbrush. This was followed by one of it’s most popular applications, the nylon stockings for women. Once World War 2 began, all nylon production was directed toward military use in parachutes production.
Today, Nylon is used in a variety of different applications such as hair combs, food packing films, fishing line, automotive components, and many more.
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is best known for its brand name of Teflon, which is owned by the company Chemours. PTFE is a high-molecular-weight fluorocarbon solid that contains carbon and fluorine. It has hydrophobic characteristics meaning water does not wet PTFE.
PTFE is commonly found in pans and cookware that have non-stick coatings. Due to its non-reactive properties, it can be used in containers and pipes where corrosive or reactive chemicals are used. PTFE can also be used as a lubricant to help reduce the wear, friction, and energy consumption of common machines. In the medical field, PTFE is used quite frequently in surgeries as a grafting material.