Like other thermoplastics, such as polyethylene and acrylic, polypropylene is used in a wide range of consumer and industrial products. Because it is durable and more resistant to a number of chemical solvents and acids than other plastics in its class, polypropylene is often the first port of call for product designers and manufacturers. What is it that makes it so versatile and how is it used nowadays?
Polypropylene has a long-established ability to resist fatigue. Therefore, it can be used in situations where it will not be regularly inspected. However, the exact properties of the material depend on its molecular weight and weight distribution both of which can be manipulated during its production. As such, it is suitable for several manufacturing processes, such as injection moulding, extrusion and blow moulding.
Polypropylene has a relatively high melting point for a thermoplastic, but it can become brittle in sub-zero temperatures. The chain degradation that is present in all polymers also has an impact on polypropylene, but this is only pronounced when the material is exposed to excessive amounts of heat or ultra-violet light. When antistatic additives are combined with polypropylene at the production stage, it becomes very resistant to dust and grime making it good for products that will be used in healthcare situations.
Thanks to its noted properties, polypropylene can be used for all sorts of products. Its low corrosion rate means that it is ideal for pipes and water tanks, for example. It can be fashioned into office furniture with relative ease and the material is widely used for this purpose. As a tough plastic, it is often moulded into storage crates where its lightweight nature can also be put to good use. The ability to be handled repeatedly means that polypropylene sheets are also favoured for making trading cards and, in some cases, bank notes.
If polypropylene is used to fashion long polymer chains, then it can be used for clothing. When woven correctly, it has the ability to trap air and is, therefore, a polymer of choice when it comes to thermal garments. It is often used, for example, with heat-retaining base layer clothing, such as leggings or under shirts.
The material is also used to strengthen concrete castings. In such cases, polypropylene is utilised as an additive so that when the concrete is mixed it will harden with a much greater resistance to cracking. For this reason, concrete-polypropylene mixes are often chosen for construction sites that lay on geological fault lines.