Polycarbonate (PC) plastics are amorphous thermoplastics known for their natural transparency. While available in various colors, they possess the unique characteristic of allowing light transmission similar to glass. These polymers find application in the production of a wide array of materials, especially when there is a need for high-impact resistance and transparency, as seen in the manufacturing of bullet-proof glass.
Common uses of PCs include plastic lenses in eyewear, medical devices, automotive components, protective gear, greenhouses, Digital Disks (CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray), and exterior lighting fixtures. These are also used in photovoltaic (PV) panels, skylights, and canopies.
Moreover, polycarbonate exhibits excellent heat resistance and can be blended with flame-retardant materials without substantial material degradation. Known for their robustness, polycarbonate plastics are often employed as engineering plastics, particularly for impact-resistant and glass-like surfaces.
What are the Characteristics of Polycarbonate?
- Polycarbonate, classified as a thermoplastic, becomes liquid at 155 degrees Celsius, allowing for repeated heating, cooling, and recycling without significant degradation, thus making it easily moldable and recyclable.
- Polycarbonate is an amorphous material, lacking the ordered characteristics of crystalline solids, and demonstrating gradual softening rather than a sharp transition from solid to liquid.
- It is a copolymer, consisting of various monomer types combined with one another.
Also see: What is Polycrystalline Silicon?
What are the Types of Polycarbonate?
These are the major types of polycarbonate plastics :
1. Transparent Polycarbonate
Polycarbonate transparent sheets offer excellent light transmission comparable to glass, making them suitable for applications requiring optical clarity. Their high impact resistance sets them apart from glass and acrylic, finding use in products like machine guards, car headlamp covers, and construction vehicle windshields.
2. Bullet-Resistant Polycarbonate
Certain types of polycarbonate provide varying degrees of bullet resistance depending on factors such as sheet thickness, lamination method, and the specific type of polycarbonate employed. The UL scale categorizes the level of protection, with thicker sheets achieving higher levels. These are often used in applications requiring robust impact resistance and low part mass, such as Aerolite polycarbonate sheets commonly used for bullet-resistant purposes.
3. Electrostatic Dissipative (ESD) Polycarbonate
Special varieties of polycarbonate possess anti-static properties, preventing the buildup of static charges on their surfaces. This feature makes them suitable for components that come into contact with sensitive electronic equipment, finding use in assembly surfaces for electronic components and electronics enclosures.
4. Polycarbonate Mirrors
Mirrored polycarbonate incorporates a reflective film that can serve as a conventional mirror or a two-way mirror. Its durability allows for use as a lightweight and robust alternative to traditional glass mirrors, finding applications in commercial aircraft bathrooms and camper vans, as well as in two-way mirrors for use in interrogation rooms.
5. Scratch-Resistant Polycarbonate
While standard polycarbonate sheets are prone to scratching, some varieties are designed to be abrasion-resistant. These sheets are coated with scratch-resistant materials like DLC, applied using the PACVD process, making them suitable for applications like optical disks where scratches can impair performance.
6. Colored/Tinted Polycarbonate
Diverse colors and tints are available for polycarbonate sheets, serving both aesthetic and functional purposes. Specialized tints can be incorporated to reflect solar radiation, making them ideal for applications where temperature control is essential.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Polycarbonate Plastics?
The key advantages and disadvantages are as follows:
- Easy to machine
- Sensitive to scratches
- Can expand
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