The World of Plastics and Polymers
In 1907 Leo Bakeland patented Bakelite
the first fully synthetic polymer. This hard plastic was used as an electrical
insulator and paved the way for the more than 60,000 different synthetic
plastics on the market today. Each year companies manufacture more than
30 million tons of plastics that are used in myriad of applications. We
wear clothes containing polyester and nylon fibers, eat food packaged
in polyethylene containers, drink water delivered through polyvinyl chloride
pipes, walk on carpets made of polyolefin fibers, and sleep on mattresses
made of polyurethane foam. The variety of applications of synthetic polymers
is mind-boggling. The table lists some of the major classes of polymers
and describes some of their useful properties and uses.
Uses of Polymers
hoses, radiator hoses, wetsuits
durable, moisture resistant
carpet, ropes, form-fitting skiwear, hosiery, swimware, boat sails
or rubbery, combines with butadiene and styrene to form hard, tough
pipe, structural panels, kettle handles, housewares; Orlon ® fabric
can be molded
by extrusion, chemically resistant
for containers, parts for valves and pumps
quickly after extension and absorb very little moisture.
belts, sleeping bag insulation, coat insulation, tire cords. Brand
name polymers include: Dacron ® , Fortrel ® , Terylene ® ; Mylar ® &
Lexan ® .
(high-density ) HDPE
can be easily
formed into lightweight containers
and juice containers; toys, liquid detergent bottles
can be stretched
into fine, tough, films.
frozen food bags, grocery bags
moldable, chemically resistant, light-weight
bottles, peanut butter jars, salad dressing bottles, nonbreakable
of at least 85% polyethylene or polypropylene
undergarments, pile fabrics, upholstery, outdoor furniture, indoor
carpeting, indoor-outdoor rugs and carpets, filters, marine cordage,
automobile seat covers, electrical insulation, carpet backing
resists attack by acids, alkalis, and many solvents, does not absorb
water; excellent electrical insulator.
cups, grocery store meat trays, fast-food sandwich containers, video
cassette cases, compact disk jackets, cafeteria trays, refrigerator
stiff, chemically and thermally resistant
plumbing items, various automotive parts, wire coatings
waxy, nonflammable, chemically resistant, slippery surface, thermally
· Viton ®
: gaskets, bearings, linings for containers and pipes.
· Teflon ®
: non-stick cookware, cooking utensils, pump valves, plumbing tape.
highly elastic quick drying fibers, or hard-drying films
· flexible foams:
upholstery material, mattresses
· rigid foams: cores for
· fibers: spandex
clothing fiber, support hosiery; Lycra ®
, Numa ® , Spandelle ®
, and Vyrene ®.
· hard films: polyurethane
water-soluble, flammable resin
in: adhesives, emulsifiers, lacquers, coatings, and films
unplasticized; flexible when plasticized
· unplasticized form:
water pipe, plumbing fittings, phonograph records, synthetic floor
tiles, credit cards
· plasticized form: raincoats, shower curtains,
and packaging films.
attack by chemicals or by weathering
protective films for: building sidings,
pipes, corrosive chemical containers
film-forming ingredient of water-based (latex) paints, adhesives,
lacquers, and cements
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