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polymerisation: this is the name of the process to describe how synthetic plastics are made.

Thermosetting plastics:

  • polymer chains are cross linking chains
  • this is called covalent bonding.
  • this stops them from being re-shaped.
  • makes the polymer a very rigid structure.


  • linked molecoles in long chains.
  • held together by mutual attraction called 'van der waals' forces.
  • this means when it is heated the bonds between the chains are weekened and become pliable.
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  • long chain coil like molecules
  • when the material is distorted (compressed or stretched) the molecules distort & when released return to thier original state.
  • the coils give elastomers their elastic properties.

Thermosetting plastics (can only be formed once)

  • polyester resin
  • epoxy resins
  • urea formaldehyde (UF)
  • melamine formaldehyde
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Thermoplastics (can be reformed with heated several times)

  • AMS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)
  • cellulose acetate (CA)
  • Nylon
  • Acrylic (PMMA)
  • polyproylene (pp)
  • high impact polystyrene (HIPS)
  • polystryrene (ps) rigid & expanded
  • low density polyethylene (LDPE)
  • high density polyethlene
  • polyvinyl chloride (uPVC)
  • polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
  • polycarbonate

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