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Polypropylene or polypropene (PP) is a thermoplastic polymer, made by the chemical industry and used in a wide variety of applications, including food packaging, ropes, textiles, stationery, plastic parts and reusable containers of various types, laboratory equipment, loudspeakers, automotive components, and polymer banknotes. Additionally it is used commonly in New Zealand and by the US Military as thermal underwear. An addition polymer made from the monomer propylene, it is rugged and unusually resistant to many chemical solvents, bases and acids. Its resin identification code is .
Additional recommended knowledge
Chemical and physical properties
Most commercial polypropylene has an intermediate level of crystallinity between that of low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE); its Young's modulus is also intermediate. Although it is less tough than HDPE and less flexible than LDPE, it is much less brittle than HDPE. This allows polypropylene to be used as a replacement for engineering plastics, such as ABS. Polypropylene is rugged, often somewhat stiffer than some other plastics, reasonably economical, and can be made translucent when uncolored but not completely transparent as polystyrene, acrylic or certain other plastics can be made. It can also be made opaque and/or have many kinds of colors. Polypropylene has very good resistance to fatigue, so that most plastic living hinges, such as those on flip-top bottles, are made from this material. Very thin sheets of polypropylene are used as a dielectric within certain high performance pulse and low loss RF capacitors.
Polypropylene has a melting point of 160 °C (320 °F). Many plastic items for medical or laboratory use can be made from polypropylene because it can withstand the heat in an autoclave. Food containers made from it will not melt in the dishwasher, and do not melt during industrial hot filling processes. For this reason, most plastic tubs for dairy products are polypropylene sealed with aluminium foil (both heat-resistant materials). After the product has cooled, the tubs are often given lids of a cheaper (and less heat-resistant) material, such as LDPE or polystyrene. Such containers provide a good hands-on example of the difference in modulus, since the rubbery (softer, more flexible) feeling of LDPE with respect to PP of the same thickness is readily apparent. Rugged, translucent, reusable plastic containers made in a wide variety of shapes and sizes for consumers from various companies such as Rubbermaid and Sterilite are commonly made of polypropylene, although the lids are often made of somewhat more flexible LDPE so they can snap on to the container to close it. When liquid, powdered, or similar consumer products come in disposable plastic bottles which do not need the improved properties of polypropylene, the containers are often made of slightly more economical polyethylene, although transparent plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate are also used for appearance. Plastic pails, car batteries, wastebaskets, cooler containers, dishes and pitchers are often made of polypropylene or HDPE, both of which commonly have rather similar appearance, feel, and properties at ambient temperature.
MFI (Melt Flow Index) identifies the flow speed of the raw material in the process. It helps to fill the plastic mold during the production process. The higher MFI increases, the weaker the raw material gets.
It also has Copolymer and Random Copolymer. Copolymer helps stiffness of the PP (Polypropylene). Random Copolymer helps transparent look.
Copolymer is more expensive than Homopolypropylene. Random Copolymer is even higher than copolymer PP.
A rubbery PP can also be made by a specialized synthesis process, as discussed below. Unlike traditional rubber, it can be melted and recycled, making it a thermoplastic.
An important concept in understanding the link between the structure of polypropylene and its properties is tacticity. The relative orientation of each methyl group (CH3 in the figure at left) relative to the methyl groups on neighboring monomers has a strong effect on the finished polymer's ability to form crystals, because each methyl group takes up space and constrains backbone bending.
Like most other vinyl polymers, useful polypropylene cannot be made by radical polymerization due to the higher reactivity of the allylic hydrogen (leading to dimerization)with respect to polymerization. Moreover, the material that would result from such a process would have methyl groups arranged randomly, so called atactic. The lack of long-range order prevents any crystallinity in such a material, giving an amorphous material with very little strength and few redeeming qualities.
A Ziegler-Natta catalyst seems to be able to limit incoming monomers to a specific orientation, only adding them to the polymer chain if they face the right direction. Most commercially available polypropylene is made with titanium chloride catalysts, which produce mostly isotactic polypropylene (the upper chain in the figure above). With the methyl group consistently on one side, such molecules tend to coil into a helical shape; these helices then line up next to one another to form the crystals that give commercial polypropylene its strength.
More precisely-engineered Kaminsky catalysts have been made, which offer a much greater level of control. Based on metallocene molecules, these catalysts use organic groups to control the monomers being added, so that a proper choice of catalyst can produce isotactic, syndiotactic, or atactic polypropylene, or even a combination of these. Aside from this qualitative control, they allow better quantitative control, with a much greater ratio of the desired tacticity than previous Ziegler-Natta techniques. They also produce higher molecular weights than traditional catalysts, which can further improve properties.
To produce a rubbery polypropylene, a catalyst can be made which yields isotactic polypropylene, but with the organic groups that influence tacticity held in place by a relatively weak bond. After the catalyst has produced a short length of polymer which is capable of crystallization, light of the proper frequency is used to break this weak bond, and remove the selectivity of the catalyst so that the remaining length of the chain is atactic. The result is a mostly amorphous material with small crystals embedded in it. Since each chain has one end in a crystal but most of its length in the soft, amorphous bulk, the crystalline regions serve the same purpose as vulcanization.
A common application for polypropylene is as Biaxially Oriented polypropylene (BOPP). These BOPP sheets are used to make a wide variety of materials including clear bags. When polypropylene is biaxially oriented, it becomes crystal clear and serves as an excellent packaging material for artistic and retail products.
In New Zealand and also in the US military, polypropylene, or 'polypro' (New Zealand 'polyprops'), is the material used for the fabrication of cold-weather gear, such as a long-sleeve shirt or long underwear, in addition to warm-weather gear such as Under Armour clothing, which can easily wick away sweat. These polypro clothes are not easily flammable, however, they can melt, which may result in severe burns if the service member is involved in an explosion or fire of any kind. Polypropylene is also used as an alternative to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) as insulation for electrical cables for LSZH cable in low-ventilation environments, primarily tunnels. This is because it emits less smoke and no toxic halogens, which may lead to production of acid in high temperature conditions.
Polypropylene is also used in particular roofing membranes as the waterproofing top layer of single ply systems as opposed to modified bit systems. Its most common medical use is in the synthetic, nonabsorbable suture Prolene, manufactured by Ethicon Inc.
Polypropylene is most commonly used for plastic moldings where it is injected into a mold while molten, forming complex shapes at relatively low cost and high volume, examples include bottle tops, bottles and fittings.
Recently it has been produced in sheet form and this has been widely used for the production of stationary folders, packaging and storage boxes. The wide colour range, durability and resistance to dirt make it ideal as a protective cover for papers and other materials. It is used in Rubik's cube stickers because of these characteristics.
The availability of sheet polypropylene has provided an opportunity for the use of the material by designers. The light weight, durable and colourful plastic makes an ideal medium for the creation of light shades and a number of designs have been developed using interlocking sections to create elaborate designs.
The material has recently been introduced into the fashion industry through the work of designers such as Anoush Waddington who have developed specialist techniques to create jewellery and wearable items from polypropylene.
Expanded Polypropylene: EPP
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Polypropylene". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|