Synthetic polymers are human-made polymers derived from petroleum oil. From the utility point of view they can be classified into three main categories: thermoplastics, elastomers and synthetic fibers. They are commonly found in a variety of products worldwide.
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, polystyrene and 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 to the backbone. Also silicon forms similar materials without the need of carbon atoms, such as silicones through siloxane linkages; these compounds are thus said to be inorganic polymers. Coordination polymers may contain a range of metals in the backbone, with non-covalent bonding present.
Some familiar household synthetic polymers include: Nylons in textiles and fabrics, Teflon in non-stick pans, Bakelite for electrical switches, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) 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. 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. They are however expensive when compared to the synthetic polymers.
Note 1: Artificial polymer should also be used in the case of chemically
Note 2: Biochemists are now capable of synthesizing copies of biopolymers
that should be named Synthetic biopolymer to make a distinction
with true biopolymers.
of biopolymers that should be referred to as artificial biopolymers, e.g.,
artificial protein, artificial polynucleotide, etc.
The eight most common types of synthetic organic polymers, which are commonly found in households are:
- Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
- High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
- Polypropylene (PP)
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
- Polystyrene (PS)
- Nylon, nylon 6, nylon 6,6
- Teflon (Polytetrafluoroethylene)
- Thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU)
|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 (dielectric) of coax cable (see also PTFE), 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, inner insulation (dielectric) of coax cable (see also HDPE), coating against chemical attack etc.|
|Polyvinyl chloride||PVC||Insulator, flame retardant, chemically inert||Pipe (mainly draining), fencing, lawn chairs, hand-bags, curtain clothes, non-food bottles, raincoats, toys, vinyl flooring, electrical installation insulations, etc.|
|Polychlorotrifluoroethylene||PCTFE||Stable to heat and thermal attacks, high tensile strength and non wetting||valves, seals, gaskets etc.|
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, brake pads, 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.|
Plastic identification codes
- Andrew J. Peacock; Allison R. Calhoun (30 June 2006). Polymer Chemistry: Properties and Applications. Hanser Verlag. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-1-56990-397-1. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
- Srikanth Pilla (15 September 2011). Handbook of Bioplastics and Biocomposites Engineering Applications. John Wiley & Sons. p. 154. ISBN 978-1-118-17704-4. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
- "Glossary of Basic Terms in Polymer Science". Pure and Applied Chemistry. 68 (12): 2287–2301. 1996. doi:10.1351/goldbook.A00250. ISBN 978-0-9678550-9-7.