PRODUCTS & MARKETS

POLYPROPYLENE


POLYMERS



Polypropylene (PP), also known as polypropene, is a thermoplastic polymer, made by the chemical industry and used in a wide variety of applications, including packaging, textiles (e.g. ropes, thermal underwear and carpets), stationery, plastic parts and reusable containers of various types, laboratory equipment, loudspeakers, automotive components, and polymer banknotes. An addition polymer made from the monomer propylene, it is rugged and unusually resistant to many chemical solvents, bases and acids.
In 2007, the global market for polypropylene had a volume of 45.1 million tons, which led to a turnover of about 65 billion US-dollars (47.4 billion Euro).

Chemical and physical properties
Most commercial polypropylene is isotactic and 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. Polypropylene is normally tough and flexible, especially when copolymerized with ethylene. This allows polypropylene to be used as an engineering plastic, competing with materials such as ABS. Polypropylene is reasonably economical, and can be made translucent when uncolored but is not as readily made transparent as polystyrene, acrylic, or certain other plastics. It is often opaque or colored using pigments. Polypropylene has good resistance to fatigue.
The melting of polypropylene occurs as a range, so a melting point is determined by finding the highest temperature of a differential scanning calorimetry chart. Perfectly isotactic PP has a melting point of 171 C (340 F). Commercial isotactic PP has a melting point that ranges from 160 to 166 C (320 to 331 F), depending on atactic material and crystallinity. Syndiotactic PP with a crystallinity of 30% has a melting point of 130 C (266 F).
Polypropylene with higher MFR will fill the plastic mold more easily during the injection or blow-molding production process. As the melt flow increases, however, some physical properties, like impact strength, will decrease.
There are three general types of polypropylene: homopolymer, random copolymer, and block copolymer. The comonomer used is typically ethylene. Ethylene-propylene rubber or EPDM added to polypropylene homopolymer increases its low temperature impact strength. Randomly polymerized ethylene monomer added to polypropylene homopolymer decreases the polymer crystallinity and makes the polymer more transparent.

History
Propylene was first polymerized to a crystalline isotactic polymer by Giulio Natta and his coworkers in March of 1954. This pioneering discovery led to large-scale commercial production of isotactic polypropylene from 1957 onwards. Syndiotactic polypropylene was also first synthesized by Giulio Natta and his coworkers.

Manufacturing
Melt processing of polypropylene can be achieved via extrusion and molding. Common extrusion methods include production of melt-blown and spun-bond fibers to form long rolls for future conversion into a wide range of useful products, such as face masks, filters, nappies (diapers) and wipes.
The most common shaping technique is injection molding, which is used for parts such as cups, cutlery, vials, caps, containers, housewares, and automotive parts such as batteries. The related techniques of blow molding and injection-stretch blow molding are also used, which involve both extrusion and molding.
The large number of end-use applications for polypropylene are often possible because of the ability to tailor grades with specific molecular properties and additives during its manufacture. For example, antistatic additives can be added to help polypropylene surfaces resist dust and dirt. Many physical finishing techniques can also be used on polypropylene, such as machining. Surface treatments can be applied to polypropylene parts in order to promote adhesion of printing ink and paints.

Applications
Since polypropylene is resistant to fatigue, most plastic living hinges, such as those on flip-top bottles, are made from this material. However, it is important to ensure that chain molecules are oriented across the hinge to maximize strength.
Very thin sheets of polypropylene are used as a dielectric within certain high-performance pulse and low-loss RF capacitors.
High-purity piping systems are built using polypropylene. Stronger, more rigid piping systems, intended for use in potable plumbing, hydronic heating and cooling, and reclaimed water applications, are also manufactured using polypropylene. This material is often chosen for its resistance to corrosion and chemical leaching, its resilience against most forms of physical damage, including impact and freezing, its environmental benefits, and its ability to be joined by heat fusion rather than gluing.
Many plastic items for medical or laboratory use can be made from polypropylene because it can withstand the heat in an autoclave. Its heat resistance also enables it to be used as the manufacturing material of consumer-grade kettles. 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 aluminum foil (both heat-resistant materials). After the product has cooled, the tubs are often given lids made of a 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 polypropylene 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. Polypropylene can also be made into disposable bottles to contain liquid, powdered, or similar consumer products, although HDPE and polyethylene terephthalate are commonly also used to make bottles. 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.
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.
Polypropylene, highly colorfast, is widely used in manufacturing carpets, rugs and mats to be used at home.
Polypropylene is widely used in ropes, distinctive because they are light enough to float in water. For equal mass and construction, polypropylene rope is similar in strength to polyester rope. Polypropylene costs less than most other synthetic fibers.
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.
Polypropylene is most commonly used for plastic moldings, wherein 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, which has been widely used for the production of stationery folders, packaging, and storage boxes. The wide color 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 colorful 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.
Polypropylene sheets are a popular choice for trading card collectors; these come with pockets (nine for standard-size cards) for the cards to be inserted and are used to protect their condition and are meant to be stored in a binder.
Expanded polypropylene (EPP) is a foam form of polypropylene. EPP has very good impact characteristics due to its low stiffness; this allows EPP to resume its shape after impacts. EPP is extensively used in model aircraft and other radio controlled vehicles by hobbyists. This is mainly due to its ability to absorb impacts, making this an ideal material for RC aircraft for beginners and amateurs.
Polypropylene is used in the manufacture of loudspeaker drive units. Its use was pioneered by engineers at the BBC and the patent rights subsequently purchased by Mission Electronics for use in their Mission Freedom Loudspeaker and Mission 737 Renaissance loudspeaker.
Polypropylene fibres are used as a concrete additive to increase strength and reduce cracking and spalling.
Polypropylene is a major polymer used in nonwovens, with over 50% used for diapers or sanitary products where it is treated to absorb water (hydrophilic) rather than naturally repelling water (hydrophobic).
In New Zealand, in the US military, and elsewhere, polypropylene, or 'polypro' (New Zealand 'polyprops'), has been used for the fabrication of cold-weather base layers, such as long-sleeve shirts or long underwear (More recently, polyester has replaced polypropylene in these applications in the U.S. military, such as in the ECWCS). Polypropylene is also used in warm-weather gear such as some Under Armour clothing, which can easily transport sweat away from the skin. Although polypropylene clothes are not easily flammable, they can melt, which may result in severe burns if the service member is involved in an explosion or fire of any kind. Polypropylene undergarments are known for retaining body odors which are then difficult to remove. The current generation of polyester does not have this disadvantage.
The material has recently been introduced into the fashion industry through the work of designers such as Anoush Waddington, who have developed specialized techniques to create jewelry and wearable items from polypropylene.
Its most common medical use is in the synthetic, nonabsorbable suture Prolene, manufactured by Ethicon Inc.
Polypropylene has been used in hernia and pelvic organ prolapse repair operations to protect the body from new hernias in the same location. A small patch of the material is placed over the spot of the hernia, below the skin, and is painless and is rarely, if ever, rejected by the body. However, a polypropylene mesh will erode over the uncertain period from days to years. Therefore, the FDA has issued several warnings on the use of polypropylene mesh medical kits for certain applications in pelvic organ prolapse, specifically when introduced in close proximity to the vaginal wall due to a continued increase in number of mesh erosions reported by patients over the past few years.

Recycling
Polypropylene is commonly recycled, and has the number "5" as its resin identification code.

Health Concerns
In 2008, Researchers in Canada asserted that quaternary ammonium biocides and oleamide were leaking out of certain polypropylene labware, affecting experimental results. Since polypropylene is used in a wide number of food containers such as those for yogurt, Health Canada media spokesman Paul Duchesne, said the department will be reviewing the findings to determine whether steps are needed to protect consumers.

 



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