Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a major thermoplastic material finding use in a very wide variety of applications and products.
PVC StructureThe essential raw materials for PVC are derived from salt and oil. The electrolysis of salt water produces chlorine, which is combined with ethylene, obtained from oil, to form vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). Molecules of VCM are polymerised to form PVC resin, to which appropriate additives are incorporated to make a customised PVC compound. The chemical structure of PVC
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is one of the most commonly used thermoplastic polymers in the world (next to only a few more widely used plastics like PET and PP). It is a naturally white and very brittle (prior to the additions of plasticizers) plastic. PVC has been around longer than most plastics having been first synthesized in 1872 and commercially produced by B.F. Goodrich Company in the 1920s. By comparison, many other common plastics were first synthesized and became commercially viable only in the the 1940s and 1950s. It is used most commonly in the construction industry but is also used for signs, healthcare applications, and as a fiber for clothing.
PVC is produced in two general forms, first as a rigid or unplasticized polymer (RPVC or uPVC), and second as a flexible plastic. Flexible, plasticized or regular PVC is softer and more amenable to bending than uPVC due to the addition of plasticizers like phthalates (e.g. diisononyl phthalate or DINP). Flexible PVC is commonly used in construction as insulation on electrical wires or in flooring for homes, hospitals, schools, and other areas where a sterile environment is a priority, and in some cases as a replacement for rubber. Rigid PVC is also used in construction as pipe for plumbing and for siding which is commonly referred to by the term “vinyl” in the United States. PVC pipe is often referred to by its “schedule” (e.g. Schedule 40 or Schedule 80). Major differences between the schedules include things like wall thickness, pressure rating, and color.
Some of PVC plastic’s most important characteristics include its relatively low price, its resistance to environmental degradation (as well as to chemicals and alkalies), high hardness, and outstanding tensile strength for a plastic in the case of rigid PVC. It is widely available, commonly used and easily recyclable (categorized by resin identification code “3”).
PVC is versatile: it can be as rigid as industrial pipes, as pliable as plastic wrap, and as thin and flexible as wallcovering. It can also be completely clear or matched to any color desired.
Building and Construction
About three-quarters of all vinyl produced goes into long-lasting building and construction applications. Life-cycle studies show PVC/vinyl is effective in protecting the environment, in terms of low greenhouse gas emissions and conservation of resources and energy.
Because it is strong and resistant to moisture and abrasion, vinyl is ideal for cladding, windows, roofing, fencing, decking, wallcoverings, and flooring. Vinyl does not corrode like some building materials, does not require frequent painting and can be cleaned with mild cleaning products.
Siding and Windows
Vinyl helps produce siding and window frames that are extremely durable, affordable, and help conserve energy when heating and cooling homes. In fact, vinyl windows have three times the heat insulation of aluminum windows.
Wiring and Cables
Vinyl is able to withstand tough conditions behind building walls – such as exposure to changing temperatures and dampness – for the life of the building. As a result, it is one of the most prevalent and trusted materials used in electrical wiring and cables.
PVC helps conserve energy and water by creating virtually leak-free pipes that are not prone to corrosion and resist environmental stress. PVC breakage rates are as low as one percent of the breakage rates of cast metal systems. The lack of build-up in PVC piping improves functionality and increases energy efficiency.
Because it is durable, dependable and light weight, flexible PVC helps packaging do its job to maintain the integrity of the products inside, including medicines. Clear vinyl is used in tamper-resistant over-the-counter medications and shrinkwrap for consumer products. Rigid vinyl film is used in blister and clamshell packaging to protect medicines, personal care products and other household goods.
Vinyl plays a critical safety role in dispensing life-saving medicine through IV bags and medical tubing. The advent of the PVC blood-collection bag was a significant breakthrough because blood bags are flexible and unbreakable, enhancing the development of ambulatory medicine and serving as the foundation for modern blood banks.
PVC’s affordability, durability and water resistance make it ideal for rain coats, boots and shower curtains.
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