Hi again! This week’s science and technology article will be about… you guessed it! Plastics!
Plastics are around us everyday and everywhere! But have you ever wondered what they are made out of and how they came to be so useful in today’s world? I will taking you through that inquiry today and hopefully you’ll feel more knowledgeable after reading this article!
What are plastics and what are they made of?
Plastics are organic materials, which means that they are made up of biological matter. They specifically contain elements like: carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, chlorine, and sulfur. Most plastics are mostly made out of carbon, while silicon on the other hand is mostly made of silicon. Some simple examples of organic materials are wood, cloth, and paper.
Plastics are basically a mixture of different organic compounds that when combined, have the property of malleability. The raw materials used are: coal, cellulose, natural gas, salt, and crude oil. Malleability is key because it allows the plastic to be made into different shapes, for instance, tubes, boxes, films, and strings.
Types of Plastics
In thermoplastics, atoms are connected in a long chain-like structure, which has repeating parts. We call these repeating parts “polymers”. A special property of thermoplastics is that is can first be melted to be joined together to create a shape, and once it cools down and becomes a solid, it can be melted once again. Basically, it can be melted over and over again to be remolded or reshaped.
Fun fact: 92% of all plastics are thermoplastics!
Real Life Examples
- milk + water bottles
- electrical insulation
- microwave containers
- coverings for the floors and walls\
- food packaging
Thermoplastics are commonly used in food packaging because they can easily be shaped in different ways to achieve the functions of different packaging types.
Thermosetting plastics are different from thermoplastics as instead of containing long one-dimensional chains in their structure, thermosetting plastics have two-dimensional or 3-dimensional chains, which are commonly referred to as a “network” of atoms. Its property is also different. Thermosetting plastics are NOT able to be reshaped or remolded through the process of melting. Once they have solidified (in the initial melting and creation of the plastic), they can no longer be melted and will stay as a solid.
Real Life Examples
- rubber tires for cars and trucks
- mattresses and cushions
- bath tubs
- electrical appliances
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