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PART 6 POLYMERS

6.1 Terminology 6.2 Types 6.3 Uses 6.4 General properties 6.5 Forming processes 6.6 Modes of failure (durability) 6.7 Typical applications

PLASTICS
Polymer: A material formed of large molecules which are built up (polymerised) from a large number of small molecules (monomers). The usual (but not only) example is the organic polymers. Organic materials:These are materials originating from living organisms. Strictly all materials containing carbon are defined as organic. Plastics: This term is used for a range of organic materials. Note that the term "plastic state" of concrete relates to the generally low modulus of elasticity and high creep of plastics.

PART 6 POLYMERS
6.1 Terminology 6.2 Types 6.3 Uses 6.4 General properties 6.5 Forming processes 6.6 Modes of failure (durability) 6.7 Typical applications

Plastics are divided into two types:


Thermoplastics always soften when heated. Thermosetting plastics which set, i.e. polymerise when mixed with a "hardener" and will not soften when heated. Setting is accelerated by catalysts, heat, pressure and even radiation.

Typical Thermoplastics and Thermosets

PART 6 POLYMERS
6.1 Terminology 6.2 Types 6.3 Uses 6.4 General properties 6.5 Forming processes 6.6 Modes of failure (durability) 6.7 Typical applications

Plastics are used in different categories of application:


As formed products (e.g. parts of electrical fittings). This is the only application for thermoplastics. As textiles, e.g. Geotextiles. As adhesives (e.g. epoxies) As surface coatings (e.g. polyurethane paint) As a matrix for reinforced products (e.g. Glass Reinforced Polyester - GRP or fibreglass)

Plastic windows and fascias

PART 6 POLYMERS
6.1 Terminology 6.2 Types 6.3 Uses 6.4 General properties 6.5 Forming processes 6.6 Modes of failure (durability) 6.7 Typical applications

Properties of Plastics (1)


Strength: high for short term Modulus: low Creep: high Behaviour in Fire

Behaviour in fire: poor because of:


Creep and loss of strength at high temperatures. High combustibility (fire retardant additives may help - these give off small quantities of gases such as chlorine which locally displace the oxygen) Toxic fumes from combustion. Hazards from burning liquid (e.g. droplets from burning light fittings)

Properties of Plastics (2)


Density: Similar to wood Thermal Conductivity: Similar to wood Electrical Conductivity: Insulator Thermal Movement: High Moisture Movement: Low Permeability: Surprisingly High Cost: Material cost high but manufacture low

PART 6 POLYMERS
6.1 Terminology 6.2 Types 6.3 Uses 6.4 General properties 6.5 Forming processes 6.6 Modes of failure (durability) 6.7 Typical applications

Forming Processes

PART 6 POLYMERS
6.1 Terminology 6.2 Types 6.3 Uses 6.4 General properties 6.5 Forming processes 6.6 Modes of failure (durability) 6.7 Typical applications

Modes of failure (durability) (1)


Biological Being organic many plastics are nutritious to some forms of animal/insect/fungus etc. Biocides may be added during manufacture. Oxidation Oxidation causes embrittlement and loss of strength. It is generally slow in the absence of heat or sunlight. Anti-oxidants may be used. Sunlight Most plastics are damaged by long term exposure to ultraviolet light. The process is known as degradation or photo-embrittlement. It may be reduced by adding a uv absorber, e.g. carbon black or silica fume.

Modes of failure (durability) (2)


Water In permeable plastics there may be loss of some components through leaching. Osmotic pressure from moisture ingress may also cause surface spalling. Leaching There has been a specific problem with pvc leaching plasticiser when in contact with insulating materials such as expanded polystyrene. Electrical wiring in loft spaces has been found to have premature embrittlement of the pvc insulation.

PART 6 POLYMERS
6.1 Terminology 6.2 Types 6.3 Uses 6.4 General properties 6.5 Forming processes 6.6 Modes of failure (durability) 6.7 Typical applications

Typical Applications
Polymers in Concrete Geotextiles Plastic Pipes Thermosetting Resins Transparent Plastics

Polymers in concrete (1)


Polymer Concrete is a mixture of resin (polyester or epoxy, see below) and aggregate (normally sand). It is used in thin sections for repairs. PIC Polymer Impregnated Concrete is rare and is made by vacuum impregnating a monomer into hardened concrete which is polymerised inside concrete with heat or radiation. Only used in factory produced precast units.

Polymers in concrete (2)


PMC Polymer Modified Concrete (Polymer Portland Cement Concrete). Catalysed polymer is added into ordinary concrete at the mixer and polymerises insitu. Used for concrete repairs with thicknesses of 50-100mm, overlays for bridge decks etc. Silanes and silicones. Used as coatings for hardened concrete. Polymer reinforcement (e.g. polypropylene fibres) Epoxy coated rebar

Typical Applications
Polymers in Concrete Geotextiles Plastic Pipes Thermosetting Resins Transparent Plastics

Geotextiles
These have 3 main functions: As filters (e.g. to keep fine materials out of gravel drains) As reinforcing nets (e.g. under roads) As ties (e.g. in reinforced earth) Non-woven materials are used as filters and for light structural applications. Woven materials are more expensive and are used for main structural applications. The performance of the materials is adversely affected by the low elastic modulus and low durability if exposed to sunlight.

Drain Filter Layer


Topsoil Geotextile filter Granular Subsoil

Permeable pipe for storm drainage

Geotextiles
These have 3 main functions: As filters (e.g. to keep fine materials out of gravel drains) As reinforcing nets (e.g. under roads) As ties (e.g. in reinforced earth) Non-woven materials are used as filters and for light structural applications. Woven materials are more expensive and are used for main structural applications. The performance of the materials is adversely affected by the low elastic modulus and low durability if exposed to sunlight.

Reinforced Earth

Geotextile Ties Precast slabs

Geotextiles
These have 3 main functions: As filters (e.g. to keep fine materials out of gravel drains) As reinforcing nets (e.g. under roads) As ties (e.g. in reinforced earth) Non-woven materials are used as filters and for light structural applications. Woven materials are more expensive and are used for main structural applications. The performance of the materials is adversely affected by the low elastic modulus and low durability if exposed to sunlight.

Typical Applications
Polymers in Concrete Geotextiles Plastic Pipes Thermosetting Resins Transparent Plastics

Plastic pipes.
These are rapidly replacing conventional materials. They are almost universal for above ground waste and are increasingly used for below ground and supply applications. They are often resistant to chemicals and good at accommodating movement during service. High density polythene is often used for this. Note that the water services have very strict controls on the types of polymer which may be used for potable water supply because the polymerisation is not normally complete and residual monomers can be leached out and these may be toxic.

Typical Applications
Polymers in Concrete Geotextiles Plastic Pipes Thermosetting Resins Transparent Plastics

Thermosetting resins.
These are mixed on sites, e.g. for setting in holding down bolts into existing slabs. Epoxies. Two components must be mixed in exact proportions ("hooks and eyes"). Will cure down to 5oC. Polyesters. Sets with a catalyst. More catalyst gives faster setting. Can be recognised by the characteristic "fibreglass" smell.

Application of Polyester Resin


Base Plate

Threaded bar

Resin in drilled hole

For all Thermosetting resins.


The components are toxic - always wear gloves. The organic catalysts used with polyesters are particularly carcinogenic. The dust arising from cutting/abrading the hardened resin is carcinogenic. The odourless vapour which evolves during curing of epoxy is toxic. For low permeability the resins must be cured correctly in VERY DRY conditions. A white "bloom" on the surface indicates moisture during curing. The setting reactions are exothermic (especially polyesters). If use is delayed after mixing the set may be delayed by placing the material in a shallow metal container.

Typical Applications
Polymers in Concrete Geotextiles Plastic Pipes Thermosetting Resins Transparent Plastics

Transparent plastics
These are used in windows etc. in place of glass: Acrylics (e.g. Perspex) are cheap but have poor impact resistance. Polycarbonates are more expensive but have good impact resistance (may be used for bullet proof laminates). Both have high thermal expansion.

Polythene (polyethylene)
Polythene is used for many applications and is available in HD (high density) form which is less permeable. Black polythene lasts longer because it is resistant to UV light. 1000 gauge polythene is 0.01", i.e. 0.254mm thick.