Material of the Month

02 July 2013

Material of the Month

Each month, we're introducing a new material for members to experiment with, cut up, boil, throw on the wheel or weave together, to investigate properties and capabilities, or just for the joy of playing with stuff. This month: Polypropylene.

Polypropylene is one of the most widely used materials in the plastics industry, in everything from ropes to plastic banknotes to thermal underwear! Unusually resistant to many acids, and other chemical solvents, this thermoplastic polymer is tough and flexible with a melting point of around 165 °C (331 °F). However, when exposed to UV light for too long it begins to degrade. One of the most common ways to synthesise polypropylene is by tipping a huge vat of liquid propylene onto a solid catalyst, then heating it until it forms polypropylene. Even though it is cheap and readily available, this material is so widely used that in 2008 the polypropylene industry was worth more than £43 billion.

Here are just a few of its many of its applications:
• Plastic hinges (such as on flip-top bottles and tic-tac containers)
• Chairs
• Capacitors
• Piping
• Kettles
• Food containers
• Plastic bags
• Carpets, rugs, and mats
• Ropes
• Electrical cable insulation
• Roofing membranes
• Plastic mouldings
• Rubik’s Cubes
• Loudspeakers
• Air and water filters
• Clothing
• Medical sutures
• Model aircraft

What will you use it for?