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Do you know what is a polymer degradation?

I suppose that everyone who was working with polymers met this term. I suppose that some of you can even have nightmares.

Generally speaking, polymer degradation is a very unwelcome effect, because it changes the properties of the material in undesirable ways (the affected properties include, but are not limited to, tensile strength, colour or brittleness). Let’s find out what is it all about and what is its role in the processing.

Undesirable Polymer Degradation

Polymer degradation changes characteristics of polymers or products based on polymers.This happens when some environmental factors, like heat, light, chemicals or force, are applied to the material.

The external factors lower the molecular weight and in consequence this changes the properties of the product (e.g. transparency or strength). The modification in materials’ properties are often called ‘ageing’, because they appear on the material after some time of it being exposed to the external factors. That means that, in order to prevent or delay the degradation, the final product has to contain some kind of protecting additives.

When polymer degradation is desirable?

Sometimes, polymer degradation is desirable, e.g. when it comes to the biodegradation or recycling, where lowering the molecular weight is necessary to prevent or reduce the environment contamination.

Polymer degradation can be divided into: UV degradation, biological degradation, thermal degradation and possibly others. We will talk about some of them the next time.

See you next time!