Polystyrene (PS) is an aromatic polymer commercially derived from the petroleum based monomer, styrene. This particular plastic is ubiquitous in daily life, second in use only to polyethylene. Polystyrene exhibits the same strength as unalloyed aluminum but is much lighter and offers significantly increased flexibility.
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Applications of Polystyrene
Polystyrene manufacturers fabricate a diverse range of stock forms which may include plastic rods, plastic sheets, plastic films, pipes, tubes, and plates. These may be utilized as finished products or can be processed further to satisfy particular specifications.
Such desirable properties as good thermal and electrical insulation, light weight, and flexibility, as well as a resistance to acids, alkalis, oils, and alcohols, make polystyrene products a popular and economic choice for a broad array of industries. Packaging, building, construction, and architectural design make frequent use of this material. Furthermore, polystyrene is chemically non-reactive, making its use popular in food, medical, biomedical, and pharmaceutical industries, as well as applications involving the storage of volatile chemicals. These products are often sterilized by irradiation or an ethylene oxide treatment.
Electronic housings, compact discs, cutlery, beakers, insulating panels, food trays, packaging products, and window panels are just a few of the myriad polystyrene products available to accommodate the broad spectrum of industrial, commercial, and residential uses. A thermoplastic, PS is pliable when heated and rigid when cold, allowing it to be easily recycled and remolded numerous times. As it is non-biodegradable, diligent recycling is essential to diminishing the environmental impact of this plastic material.
Characteristics of Polystyrene
In its solid form, polystyrene is a colorless, glass-like rigid material. Polystyrene softens just above 100 degrees Celsius and becomes viscous at 185 degrees Celsius. Different fillers can be added to molten polystyrene during processing to alter porosity, strength, flexibility, and thermal capabilities.
Manufacturing Process of Polystyrene
The many uses of polystyrene all begin with the same process of joining monomers to create the plastic polymers. Classified as a liquid hydrocarbon, PS is composed of the elements hydrogen and carbon. Through the free-radical polymerization of petroleum or the derivative phenylethene (another name for styrene), and using benzoyl peroxide as the initiator, these hydrocarbon monomers form covalent bonds with phenol groups to create polystyrene.
Beyond this point, polystyrene can be manufactured in a number of different ways. The most recognizable pre-form of polystyrene is the trademarked extruded foam, Styrofoam. Also available in expanded foam, moldable solids, or viscous fluids, polystyrene is supplied to hundreds of different industries in the most applicable pre-form. Injection molding, casting, extrusion, and stamping are used to manufacture products from this dimensionally stable material.