Polycarbonates are virtually unbreakable plastics that are available in transparent and opaque sheets. Multiple kinds of polycarbonates exist – depending on how your polycarbonate is processed, there could be differences in molecular weight, different additives, or multiple polyhydroxy compounds.
Polycarbonate is produced via chemical reactions between bisphenol A (BPA) and phosgene COCl2. It was first patented in 1953 by Hermann Schnell at Bayer under the name Melron (later changed to Makloron).
Today, polycarbonate is made in a similar way through either injection moulding or extrusion. However, the BPA is sometimes replaced by other diols to enhance or alter its physical properties. For example, tetrabromobisphenol A is often used to enhance fire protection, while tetramethylcyclobutanediol is used to create BPA-free polycarbonate. It’s been predicted that over a million tons of polycarbonate are produced every year!
Common Characteristics of Polycarbonate
Polycarbonate plastic is a thermoplastic. As a thermoplastic, polycarbonate is reduced to liquid form in response to extreme heat, but can it be cooled again without a large loss in quality.
Polycarbonate is highly impact and shatter resistant. This makes polycarbonate a good fit for those looking to invest in higher security measures. Although polycarbonate does not shatter easily, it can be easily scratched. Many polycarbonate providers can apply coating to help prevent this.
The Benefits of Polycarbonate
Polycarbonate boasts a wide range of benefits, making it a popular plastic to use. It’s extremely durable while being exceptionally lightweight, making it an ideal replacement for windows. In fact, a sheet of polycarbonate is 250 times stronger than a pane of glass while being highly shatter resistant. As a result, polycarbonate is often used for security, or making durable, long-lasting consumer products.
Polycarbonate has a long list of benefits, making it ideal for a variety of purposes. Here are just a few of polycarbonate's amazing features:
- High Optical Clarity - Polycarbonate is exceptionally clear, and can be mistaken for glass as a result.
- Thermal Insulation - Polycarbonate traps heat up to 60 percent better than glass. For this reason, polycarbonate is often used in greenhouses, or in energy-efficient buildings.
- Easy to Install - As a durable and lightweight plastic, polycarbonate is simple to install, especially with the help of a frame or a support structure.
- Versatile - Polycarbonate can be molded into a wide variety of shapes, including sheets, panels, rods, tubes, and more.
- Easy to Shape - Polycarbonate can be cut with standard woodworking tools like a circular saw or jigsaw.
- Sustainable - As a thermoplastic, polycarbonate can easily be recycled by heating the plastic until it becomes a liquid, then molding it into a new shape.
What is Polycarbonate Used For?
Due to the different kinds of polycarbonate available for purchase, polycarbonate can be used in many distinct purposes. Polycarbonate can be fashioned into eyewear lenses, protective gear including bullet-resistant glass, medical equipment, and panels for greenhouses. It can also be used for glazing applications, creating products such as CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs, as well as outdoor lighting fixtures.
Polycarbonate sheeting is cold curvable, meaning it can typically be formed at room temperature into sharp angles or deep curves without cracking or breaking.
The primary methods of production for commercial use are:
- Extrusion into tubes, rods, or multiwall
- Extrusion into sheets and films
- Injection molding into items ready for use
- Siding and roofing panels