Life today has been dependent on plastic for every small and minute need and requirement. There are industrial and commercial requirements as well apart from the household needs that plastic adheres to. Some plastics such as sealants, linings, glue, and others that the users do not even recognize as plastic.
Let’s get to know more about them by exploring the different plastic material properties.
What is plastic?
Plastic has its origin in the Greek word plastikos. This word implies “fit for moulding”. Thus, it depicts the properties of plastics of plasticity and malleability while manufacturing. It can be pressed and cast into several shapes such as boxes, bottles, fibres, plates, films, and many more items.
Plastic can be a variety of semi-synthetic or synthetic organic compounds that can be moulded into any solid object. Surprisingly plastic is also an organic material similar to wool, paper or wood and can be produced from raw materials such as crude oil, salt, natural gas, coal, cellulose and others.
Plastic is a material that deforms and yet remains unbreakable. A combination of reinforcements, fillers, stabilizers, plasticizers, colourants, additives creates the polymer the plastic is made of.
Types of Plastic
Plastic can be classified into many categories, such as organic plastic and inorganic plastic, which contains carbon and others that do not. The two major types of plastic are mentioned below:
The plastics that can be remolded again and again by heating the same are termed thermoplastic. The polymers of thermoplastic are amorphous. Some of them are also made of partially crystalline structures.
When thermoplastics are exposed to heat, no changes in their chemical composition and chemical structure takes place. It can be converted to a soft state by heating and therefore moulded again. Some of the examples of Thermoplastic are Nylon, Acrylic, Teflon, Polystyrene and others
- Thermosetting Polymers
The polymers that turn into permanent solid structures or shapes are termed thermosetting polymers. The polymers of thermosetting plastic are also amorphous and have infinite molecular weight. Also termed as thermosets, this kind of plastic cannot be moulded or form any other shape after heating. When heated again and at a high temperature, thermosets degrade and damage. Examples of thermosetting polymers are Vinyl ester resin, Epoxy resin, Polyurethane, Bakelite, vulcanized rubber and other plastics.
Properties of Plastic
There is a wide range of plastic with different kinds of applications and benefits. Some of the significant physical properties of plastic are mentioned below:
- The processing method of the subunits of plastic, arrangements and chemical composition of the same is the basis of properties of plastic
- Plastics have their origin in polymers. Though all the plastic derive from polymers all polymers cannot be plastic
- Plastics can be any form of solids such as semi-crystalline solid, crystalline solid, or amorphous solid.
- Plastics are bad conductors of electricity and heat. However, plastic that is made for insulators has enormous dielectric strength.
- Plastics are a highly durable material and are not very easily degradable or perishable.
- Plastics are chemically stable and lightweight and, therefore, can be moulded into various shapes and sizes.
- Plastic has good insulation, impact resistance, transparency and very low thermal conductivity.
- The processing cost of plastic is reasonable.
- The dimensional stability of plastic is poor and, therefore, can be deformed easily.
Structure and composition of Plastic
Plastic is typically carbon-based atoms and is easily able to link to other atoms up to four chemical bonds. When in plastic, the carbon atoms can also get linked to sulphur, chlorine, nitrogen, oxygen, or hydrogen. However, Silicon plastic is an exception to other plastics as they are silicon-based. The linking of the atom in a long chain can be compared to the pearl string and is called thermoplastic. Out of the majority of plastics, around 92% of plastic is thermoplastic. Thermoplastic has repeating units and is meltable.
To create a group of atoms from the small and identical section of the chain is called monomers. When the monomers are combined, plastic or polymers of plastic are produced. There is double bonding between the carbon atoms of every monomer.
The arrangement of molecules in the polymers decides the behaviour of plastic such that it can be crystalline or amorphous. In the amorphous state, the arrangement of molecules is intertwined or random, while in the crystalline state, it is closely knit. If we observe the semi-crystalline material, then they have crystallites formed in the amorphous matrix.
The structure of plastic is changeable chemically by using copolymers and also with the use of binding chemically with other compounds and elements. Crystallizability can change the performance, aesthetic and processing properties of the given plastic. By adding additives to plastic, it can also be altered.
Uses of Plastic
Plastic is used in the construction of infrastructure, homes, buildings, and other things for its sustainability, durability, and long-lasting design. It is used in manufacturing accessories such as microwaves, television, cell phones, and computers due to its affordable, lightweight, and durable nature.
Various sports requirements such as protective padding, goggles, mouth guards, helmets and many more are made out of plastic. In the automotive section also plastic has put up its name for safety, fuel efficiency and performance. Plastic is tremendously used in the packaging of products as it is lightweight, preserves and protects goods in a better way, and is cost-efficient.
Plastic has become part and parcel of everyone’s life. There are other kinds of plastic available in markets, such as commodity plastic or engineering plastic. Plastic has made life cleaner, safer, easier and enjoyable. We can find plastic everywhere, including medical equipment, screens, toys, cars, clothes, houses and other products. The commonly used semi-synthetic and synthetic plastic materials have a variety of applications, uses and benefits. They are not perishable and degradable and cause some side effects and pollution. But if treated appropriately and reused and recycled, then plastic can become a boon in routine and commercial life.