Plastics are one of the most versatile materials in the chemical market. This widespread chemical is used as a vital substance in a diverse array of applications. Plastics coat cookware and cellphones; they are in walls and insulation, food packaging and paints. Plastics provide an invaluable tool for industrial needs such as plating tanks and drip pans. This multipurpose substance is used across a wide range of industries for various purposes.
Plastic comes in a variety of forms; some plastics are soft and malleable and others are known for their resistance. Thermoplastics include a group of plastics that have unique characteristics.
Thermoplastics: Definition and Applications
Thermoplastics are a group of plastic polymers that are held together by a chemical attraction known as van der Waals forces. These weak electric forces create weak bonds between neutral molecules. Solids that are held together by van der Waals forces are usually softer than their ionic counterparts and have lower melting points.
Because thermoplastics are held together by van der Waals forces, their polymer chains weaken when exposed to high temperatures. When heated, thermoplastics become easy to manipulate; they can be molded into a variety of shapes and that are then solidified with cooling. This unique characteristic makes thermoplastics a highly useful material. While there are many forms of thermoplastic polymers, they share a common versatility and recyclability.
Common Forms of Thermoplastics Include:
- This group of plastic is characterized according to molecular weight. Polyethlenes with a high molecular weight are resistant, while those with smaller weights are malleable. These plastics have a wide range of uses including pipes and machine parts
- This thermoplastic is chemically inactive, making it used for materials that are exposed to highly reactive chemicals. Common uses for Teflon include cookware coatings, containers, and lubricants.
- Polyvinyl chloride. Commonly referred to as PVC, this plastic is lightweight and used in hoses, gutters, and a variety of construction products.
Thermoplastics are a group of plastic polymers marked by their versatility. This useful material is used across a diverse range of industries.