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Friday, June 1, 2012

Polypropylene: How Useful Is It?

Polypropylene is a thermoplastic polymer. This basically means that it is a material that melts to a liquid when heated and freezes to a glassy state. It is elastic and flexible in structure and is made by the chemical industry.

Propylene is a major by-product of oil refining. The two most common forms of polypropylene material are in plastics and fibers. Polymers can be of a natural or synthetic source. Examples of natural polymers are shellac, rubber and amber.

Synthetic polymers are usually some variation of plastic. Polypropylene was discovered by the Italian chemist, Giulio Natta in 1954, who also went on to receive in 1963, a Nobel Prize for Chemistry that was related to this discovery. 

Since polypropylene resists wear, fatigue and erosion, it has found many uses such as plastic hinges, pipes, diapers, sanitary products, clear plastic bags, insulation for electrical cables, plastic pails, batteries, water bottles, wastebaskets, automotive parts, coolers, jewelry, dishes, pitchers, medical sutures, roofing materials and the list goes on. 
The military uses this material to insulate special clothing against heat and cold temperatures. Polypropylene is used to make plastic ropes light enough to float in the water and yet strong enough to resist breakage. However, it has a tendency to be damaged by sunlight and by very high temperatures.

Chemicals are added during the manufacturing process to retard this damage. In the flooring industry, it finds use in the backing material for rugs and mats and since it is also colorfast, durable and waterproof, polypropylene makes an excellent fiber for carpets. When used as a carpet fiber, it is referred to as olefin.
Polypropylene is also commonly recycled and so it meets some of the classifications of “eco-friendly”. 

Exxon Mobile Chemical Company and Dow Chemical Company are a couple of the major manufacturers of polypropylene. The chemical industry continues to experiment aggressively to discover new, beneficial and prosperous uses for this very versatile material.

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