A polymer is a molecule that is held together by several repeating structural units obtained by the process of polymerization. The polymers are widely used in plastic industries, steel and aluminum industries, oil and gas companies, petrochemical industries and so on. Polymers are used in several appliances that we use frequently in our day to day life. Nowadays, the need of polymers is much more demanding because of its applications in different sectors of science and technology. In this article, we will discuss the importance and the use of different types of polymers in our daily life.
Types of Polymers:
Polymers are of two types i.e. synthetic polymer and natural polymer. Synthetic polymers are derived from petroleum oil and are manufactured by scientists and engineers. Examples of synthetic polymers are polyethylene, nylon, polyester, epoxy, and Teflon. Natural polymers are extracted from nature and are often water based. Examples of naturally occurring polymers are cellulose, wool, silk, proteins, and DNA.
Examples of Synthetic Polymers:
- Polycarbonate: It is naturally transparent polymer and is used for manufacturing a variety of products, particularly when the impact resistance or transparent glass like surfaces like bulletproof glasses are to be manufactured. It is also used for manufacturing several automobile components, eye lenses, protective gear, digital disks like CDs and DVDs. These synthetic polymers also have excellent heat resistance properly and can be combined with the flame retardant materials (Gypsum and Perlite boards) without having any significant material degradation.
- Polyethylene: This is probably the polymer that we see and use the most in our everyday life. It is one of the most popular and excessively used plastics in the world. It is used to make items like toys, bottles, grocery bags, plastic food containers, bulletproof vests, etc.
- Polyesters: Polyester can be a thermoplastic (can be molded in any shape when it is hot) and a thermoset (does not melt, and cannot be remolded or recycled). Because of its several desirable properties, it is widely used in making fibers and fabrics:
It is used in making garments like suits, shirts, pants, and bed sheets either by itself or as a blend because of its durability, wrinkle resistant property, and high tenacity. It can withstand repetitive and strong movements. Its hydrophobic property makes it ideal for manufacturing waterproof jackets. Since polyester can be molded into almost any shape, certain insulating properties can also be built into the fiber.
- Polystyrene: It is hard, stiff, and transparent synthetic resin produced by the polymerization of styrene (monomer). Polystyrene polymer is produced in millions of tonnes per year and is one of the most widely used plastics.
In Appliances: Air conditioners, Refrigerators, ovens, vacuum cleaners, microwaves, blenders etc are generally made of polystyrene because of its durability, cost effectiveness and inability to react with other materials.
In Automotive: It is widely used in manufacturing the accessories of automobiles like instrument panels, knobs, trim, sound damping foam and energy absorbing door panels.
In Electronics: It is used in the parts of televisions, computers and all other types of electrical equipments where the combination of aesthetics, form and function and are essential.
Insulation: Lightweight polystyrene foam is inert, durable and resistant to water damage. Polystyrene polymers provide excellent thermal insulation in wide range of applications like in the construction of insulated building walls, refrigerators, and industrial cold storage. Polystyrene packaging is economical than other alternatives. It insulates better and keeps food fresher for longer.
In Medical: Due to its clarity and ease of sterilization, it is used in making test tubes, tissue culture trays, petri dishes, housings for test kits, medical devices and diagnostic components.
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