Polymers are materials composed of individual molecules that have been fused into long interconnected chains. Although some polymers like cellulose are found in nature, many of the polymers we are most familiar with are synthetic. Synthetic polymers can be found in many everyday items that most people would not even think about. If you are interested in reading more, here are four common household items that are composed of synthetic polymers.
Bin bags might not be the glamorous household items with which to start this list, but most people would be hard-pressed to live without them. Bin bags have not been around for very long. The Canadian Frank Plomp invented them in the year 1950. Plomp’s revolutionary invention was made out of polyethylene – a highly flexible polymer that can stretch while maintaining strength. Plomp has been named one of Canadian history’s most important inventors. It might not be pretty, but it is a useful innovation that many people would not manage without.
Non-stick pans are typically coated with a thin layer of the polymer Teflon to create a surface that does not bond to food when heated. New research by companies like polychemistry.com is focused on developing polymers that will eventually replace Teflon as the primary material for coating non-stick pans. Teflon – or PTFE as the polymer is scientifically known – is rather damaging to the environment and has been named as a ‘forever chemical’. These chemicals are incredibly long-lasting and can be found in human blood samples. A replacement is in order!
Most plastic garden furniture is made of Marine Grade Polymer – a kind of high-density polyethylene that was developed for use at sea. It is extremely durable and water resistant. Luckily, it is also fully recyclable. MGP-based garden furniture is very affordable due to how quickly and efficiently it can be made using vacuum molding machinery. Vacuum molding – otherwise known as thermomolding or vacuum forming – is a process in which a plastic is heated until it is soft before being ‘sucked’ onto a mold by a vacuum. Some polymers are especially suited to thermomolding, making them favorites in the manufacturing industry. The less time an object takes to make, the less money it takes to create it.
DVDs are made, in part, out of a fascinating polymer. The base layer of a DVD is composed of a polycarbonate thermoplastic known usually by its brand name Lexan. Lexan was first created in the 1960s in both Germany and the United States. It is immensely resistant to kinetic damage. This explains why it is used in the creation of DVDs and why it is the primary material used for the fabrication of bulletproof glass. Lexan is able to bend and be subjected to a great deal of force before it snaps. DVDs might not be required to take bullets, but they are typically subjected to a great deal of bending over the course of their service lives.