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Information @ a Glance

General

  • Polyethylene is a polymer consisting of long chains of the monomer ethylene.

  • Polyethylene is the most popular plastic in the world.For such a versatile material, it has a very simple structure, the simplest of all commercial polymers.

  • A molecule of polyethylene is nothing more than a long chain of carbon atoms, with two hydrogen atoms attached to each carbon atom.

  • Polyethylene with molecular weights of three to six million is referred to as ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene, or UHMWPE.

  • Polyethylene is a highly durable material that provides exceptional engineering characteristics in applications where ease of cleaning, stability, impact, wear, UV and weather resistance is desirable.

  • Polyethylene is classified into several different categories based mostly on its density and branching. The mechanical properties of PE depend significantly on variables such as the extent and type of branching, the crystal structure and the molecular weight.

Process

  • Polyethylene can be processed into various consumer products using processing techniques such as profile extrusion, film extrusion, injection molding, blow molding, rotomolding and etc.

  • Polyethylene is produced using ethylene as a monomer. For high pressure polyethylene, the other prime requirement is the peroxide initiator.

  • The first commercial polyethylene was produced under very high pressure (~ 3,000 atm). This is a free radical reaction process which produces low-density polyethylene (LDPE) with narrow molecular weight distribution.

  • HDPE is now produced by catalytic polymerisation of ethylene in either slurry (suspension), solution or gas phase reactors. Alpha-olefin comonomers, such as butene, hexene and octene, may be incorporated at low levels to modify the polymer's properties.

Uses

  • Low density polyethylene, Linear medium density polyethylene and medium density polyethylene resins are used in the production of flexible food packaging, a shrink-wrap, stretch film and overwrap film.

  • High density polyethylene resins are used in the production of industrial drums, children's toys and pressure pipes.

Market

  • Polyethylene demand growth in Asia/Pacific is robust, projected to continue at rates significantly.

  • Worldwide LLDPE demand growth is forecast to average ~13%/yr, with consumption reaching ~14 million metric tons.

  • The wide use of polyethylene makes it an important environmental issue. Though it can be recycled, most of the commercial polyethylene ends up in landfills and in the oceans. Polyethylene is not considered biodegradable, as it takes several centuries until it is efficiently degraded.

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