What Are Polymer Additives?

03 November 2022

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The usage of polymer additives is one of the significant advances in plastic compositions over time. Chemicals known as polymer additives are added to the parent polymer to enhance processability, extend the product's lifespan, and/or provide the required physical or chemical qualities. Although polymer additives are often only present in small amounts, they have a major impact on the stability and performance of polymers.

Types of Polymer Additives

When it comes to additives, there are infinite possibilities, and each one enhances a particular aspect of the usefulness or stability of the polymer. The typical groups of polymer additives are listed below.

Base polymers are frequently hard and frequently lack the flexibility and rheological, or flow, qualities required for processing plastics. This calls for the use of plasticizers. Plasticizers are included to enhance both rheology and elasticity. Phthalate esters, a type of plasticizer used in PVC goods, are one of the most widely used polymer additives.

Almost all plastics are susceptible to breakdown when exposed to oxygen, such as ozone, and UV radiation from sources like sunshine. Brittleness, discoloration, and the loss of various physical qualities are the results of the degradation. Anti-oxidants, stabilizers, or anti-ozonants, sometimes known as additives, are used to stop the degradation of plastic and greatly increase the lifespan of the finished product.

Blowing agents are additives that are introduced to the base polymer, and when a particular processing temperature is reached, they break down, releasing gas that causes the plastic to take on a cellular structure. This design lessens density while enhancing insulating capabilities. Salts and sophisticated nitrogen-releasing compounds are just a few of the several blowing agents that are readily available.

Electrical products frequently use these chemicals to prevent plastic from burning and igniting. When processing plastic, flame retardants can be added as a processing step, a surface layer finishes, or even combined with the parent polymer. Common flame retardants include phosphorus and nitrogen chemistries as well as halogens like bromine.

Anti-static additives are used to reduce the likelihood of static electricity accumulation on the plastic's surface, and in rare situations, to completely prevent it. Amino compounds, ammonium compounds, and polyethylene glycol esters are some examples of anti-static additives.

Colorants are used to alter the finished product's color. Frequently, these additives are pigments or colors. Due to the need for compatibility between the two polymers, the specific dye or pigment used depends greatly on the base polymer being utilized.

Anti-microbial additives are gaining popularity as implantable medical devices and other technologies become more prevalent. These substances lessen the possibility of a microbial attack while defending the plastic from deterioration.

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