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Monday, July 11, 2011

Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA)

There’s a bunch of things I’ve been meaning to post that are made of acrylic and an introduction is in order.  Check out everything with an acrylic label.

Poly(methyl methacrylate), abbreviated PMMA, has the chemical formula (C5O2H8)n and CAS Registry Number 9011-14-7.

PMMA repeating unitPoly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA)

PMMA is a transparent thermoplastic, often used as a light or shatter-resistant alternative to glass.  A thermoplastic is a polymer that softens and turns to liquid when heated and conversely solidifies to a glass-like state when cooled.  PMMA has a melting point of approximately 160 °C (320 °F). It is sometimes called acrylic glass or simply acrylic.

Chemically, PMMA is the synthetic polymer of methyl methacrylate. The material was developed in 1928 in various laboratories and was first brought to market in 1933 by Rohm and Haas under the trademark Plexiglas.  Lucite is the brand name of the polymer developed by the DuPont Chemical Company and only items made by DuPont can be referred to as Lucite.  The development of special light-resistant dyes in 1946 allowed color to be incorporated into acrylic without detrimental fading.

In addition to Plexiglas and Lucite, PMMA is sold by numerous other trade names such as Limacryl, R-Cast, Perspex, Plazcryl, Acrylex, Acrylite, Acrylplast, Altuglas, Polycast and Oroglass and is commonly called acrylic glass or simply acrylic.  A more complete list of synonyms for acrylic can be found here.

Acrylic shapesAcrylics are available in a vast selection of different forms and colors, including sheet, rod, tube, and block.  Image source:  Interstate Plastics.

PMMA is an economical alternative to polycarbonate (PC) when extreme strength is not necessary. Additionally, PMMA does not contain the potentially harmful bisphenol-A (BPA) subunits found in polycarbonate. It is often preferred because of its moderate properties, easy handling and processing, and low cost.  However, the material behaves in a brittle manner when loaded, especially under an impact force, and is more prone to scratching than glass.Resin code 7

For the purposes of recycling, PMMA is in group 7.  For more information about  plastics recycling codes, click here for a pdf published by the American Chemistry Council.

References

Poly(methyl methacrylate). Retrieved June 30, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poly(methyl_methacrylate)

Rohm and Haas Innovation - Plexiglas Triumphs. Retrieved June 30, 2011 from http://www.rohmhaas.com/history/ourstory/innovation_plexiglastriumphs.htm

Vintage Lucite. Retrieved June 30, 2011 from http://www.ehow.com/about_6634319_vintage-lucite_.html


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