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Synthetic polymer

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Synthetic polymer

Synthetic polymers are human-made polymers. From the utility point of view they can be classified into four main categories: thermoplastics, thermosets, elastomers and synthetic fibers. They are found commonly in a variety of consumer products such as money, super glue, etc.

A wide variety of synthetic polymers are available with variations in main chain as well as side chains. The back bones of common synthetic polymers such as polythene and polystyrene, poly acrylates are made up of carbon-carbon bonds, whereas hetero chain polymers such as polyamides, polyesters, polyurethanes polysulfides and polycarbonates have other elements (e.g. oxygen, sulfur, nitrogen) inserted along the backbone. Also silicon form familiar materials such as silicones through siloxane linkages, which does not have any carbon atoms and is said to be an inorganic polymer. Coordination polymers may contain a range of metals in the backbone, with non-covalent bonding present.

Some familiar house-hold synthetic polymers include Nylons in textiles and fabrics, Teflon in non-stick pans, Bakelite for electrical switches, polyvinyl chloride in pipes, etc. The common PET bottles are made of a synthetic polymer, polyethylene terephthalate. The plastic kits and covers are mostly made of synthetic polymers like polythene and tires are manufactured from Buna rubbers.[1] However, due to the environmental issues created by these synthetic polymers which are mostly non-biodegradable and often synthesized from petroleum, alternatives like bioplastics are also being considered. But they are expensive when compared to the synthetic polymers.[2]

IUPAC definition

Artificial polymer: Man-made polymer that is not a biopolymer.

Note 1: Artificial polymer should also be used in the case of chemically
modified biopolymers.

Note 2: Biochemists are now capable of synthesizing copies of biopolymers
that should be named synthetic biopolymers to make a distinction
with true biopolymers.

Note 3: Genetic engineering is now capable of generating non-natural analogues
of biopolymers that should be referred to as artificial biopolymers, e.g.,
artificial protein, artificial polynucleotide, etc.[3]

Inorganic polymers

Main article: Inorganic polymer

Organic polymers

The seven most common types of synthetic organic polymers, which are commonly found in households are:

List of some addition polymers and their uses
Polymer Abbreviation Properties Uses
Low Density Polyethylene LDPE Chemically inert, flexible, insulator Squeeze bottles, toys, flexible pipes, insulation cover (electric wires), six pack rings, etc.
High Density Polyethylene HDPE Inert, thermally stable, tough and high tensile strength Bottles, pipes, inner insulation of coax cable, plastic bags, etc.
Polypropylene PP Resistant to acids and alkalies, High tensile strength Auto parts, industrial fibers, food containers, liner in bags, dishware and as a wrapping material for textiles and food
Polystyrene (thermocole) PS Thermal insulator. Properties depends on the form, expanded form is tough and rigid Petri dishes, CD case, plastic cutlery
Polytetrafluoroethylene PTFE Very low coefficient of friction, excellent dielectric properties, chemically inert Low friction bearings, non-stick pans, coating against chemical attack etc.
Polyvinylchloride PVC Insulator Pipe, fencing, lawn chairs, hand-bags, curtain clothes, non-food bottles, raincoats, toys, vinyl flooring etc.
Polychlorotrifluoroethylene PCTFE Stable to heat and thermal attacks, high tensile strength and non wetting valves, seals, gaskets etc.

Brand names

These polymers are often better known through their brand names, for instance:

Brand Name Polymer Characteristic properties Uses
Bakelite Phenol-formaldehyde resin High electric, heat and chemical resistance Insulation of wires, manufacturing sockets, electrical devices, breakpads, etc.
Kevlar Para-aramid fibre High tensile strength Manufacturing armour, sports and musical equipment. Used in the field of cryogenics
Twaron Para-aramid Heat resistant and strong fibre Bullet-proof body armor, helmets, brake pads, ropes, cables and optical fibre cables, etc. and as an asbestos substitute
Mylar Polyethylene terephthalate film High strength and stiffness, less permeable to gases, almost reflects light completely Food packaging, transparent covering over paper, reflector for rollsigns and solar cooking stoves
Neoprene Polychloroprene Chemically inert Manufacturing gaskets, corrosion resistant coatings, waterproof seat covers, substitute for corks and latex
Nylon Polyamide Silky, thermoplastic and resistant to biological and chemical agents Stockings, fabrics, toothbrushes. Molded nylon is used in making machine screws, gears etc.
Nomex Meta-aramid polymer Excellent thermal, chemical, and radiation resistance, rigid, durable and fireproof. Hood of firefighter's mask, electrical lamination of circuit boards and transformer cores and in Thermal Micrometeoroid Garment
Orlon Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) Wool-like, resistant to chemicals, oils, moths and sunlight Used for making clothes and fabrics like sweaters, hats, yarns, rugs, etc., and as a precursor of carbon fibres
Rilsan Polyamide 11 & 12 Bioplastic Used in high-performance applications such as sports shoes, electronic device components, automotive fuel lines, pneumatic airbrake tubing, oil and gas flexible pipes and control fluid umbilicals, and catheters.
Technora Copolyamid High tensile strength, resistance to corrosion, heat, chemicals and saltwater Used for manufacturing optical fiber cables, umbilical cables, drumheads, automotive industry, ropes, wire ropes and cables
Teflon Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) Very low coefficient of friction, excellent dielectric properties, high melting, chemically inert Plain bearings, gears, non-stick pans, etc. due to its low friction. Used as a tubing for highly corrosive chemicals.
Ultem Polyimide Heat,flame and solvent resistant. Has high dielectric strength Used in medical and chemical instrumentation, also in guitar picks
Vectran aromatic polyester High thermal and chemical stability. Golden color. Has high strength, low creep, and is moisture resistant Used as reinforcing fibres for ropes, cables, sailcloth. Also used in manufacturing badminton strings, bike tires and in electronics applications. Is the key component of a line of inflatable spacecraft developed by Bigelow Aerospace
Viton Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) Elastomer Depends on the grade of the polymer. Viton B is used in chemical process plants and gaskets.
Zylon poly-p-phenylene-2,6-benzobisoxazole (PBO) Very high tensile strength and thermal stability Used in tennis racquets, table tennis blades, body armor, etc.

See also


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