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Thermoplastic - definition, properties and examples of thermoplastic.


thermoplasticWhat is a thermoplastic?

Thermoplastic materials are those materials that are made of polymers linked by intermolecular interactions or van der Waals forces, forming linear or branched structures.

A thermoplastic material it can be compared to a set of strings that are mixed on a table, each of these string is represents a polymer, the greater degree of mixing of the strings greater the effort will be made to separate the strings from each other, due the friction that occurs between each of the cords offers resistance to separate, in this example the friction represents the intermolecular forces that holds together the polymer.

polymer structures

Depending on the degree of the intermolecular interactions that occurs between the polymer chains, the polymer can take two different types of structures, amorphous or crystalline structures, being possible the existence of both structures in the same thermoplastic material:

  • Amorphous structure - polymer chains acquire a bundled structure, like a ball of thread disordered, amorphous structure that is directly responsible for the elastic properties of thermoplastic materials.

  • Crystal structure - polymer chains acquire an ordered and compacted structure, it can be distinguished mainly lamellar structures and micellar form. This crystal structure is directly responsible for the mechanical properties of resistance to stresses or loads and the temperature resistance of thermoplastic materials.

If the thermoplastic material has a high concentration of polymers with amorphous structures, the material will have a poor resistance to loads but it will have an excellent elasticity. But on the contrary, if the thermoplastic material has a high concentration of polymers with a crystalline structure, the material will be very strong and even stronger than thermoset materials, but with a little elasticity that provides the characteristic fragility of these materials.

thermoplastic structures

Properties of thermoplastic materials are:

  • It may melt before passing to a gaseous state.

  • Allow plastic deformation when it is heated.

  • They are soluble in certain solvents.

  • Swell in the presence of certain solvents.

  • Good resistance to creep.

Examples and applications of thermoplastic plastic materials:

  • High pressure polyethylene as applied to rigid material covered with electrical machines, tubes, etc...

  • Low pressure polyethylene elastic material used for insulation of electrical cables, etc...

  • Polystyrene applied for electrical insulation, handles of tools...

  • Polyamide used for making ropes, belts, etc...

  • PVC or polyvinyl chloride for the manufacture of insulation materials, pipes, containers, etc...

Examples of thermoplastic adhesives:

  • Acrylates

  • Cyanoacrylates

  • Epoxy cured by ultraviolet radiation

  • Acrylates cured by ultraviolet radiation

Now that you know the thermoplastics materials, did you know that most packages that contains soft drinks are made from thermoplastic materials?

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