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 |
Polymer | Properties | Applications |
neoprene | very chemical resistant, rubbery | shoe soles, hoses, radiator hoses, wetsuits |
(nylon) | fibrous, strong, durable, moisture resistant | parachutes, carpet, ropes, form-fitting skiwear, hosiery, swimware, boat sails |
polyacrylonitrile | resinous, fibrous, or rubbery, combines with butadiene and styrene to form hard, tough ABS copolymer | ABS plumbing pipe, structural panels, kettle handles, housewares; Orlon® fabric |
polychloro-trifluoroethylene | can be molded by extrusion, chemically resistant | gaskets, linings for containers, parts for valves and pumps |
polyester | fibers recover quickly after extension and absorb very little moisture. | filters, conveyor 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 | milk, water, and juice containers; toys, liquid detergent bottles |
(low-density) LDPE | can be stretched into fine, tough, films. | bread bags, frozen food bags, grocery bags |...