Polyethylene was accidentally discovered in 1935 by Michael Perrin and his team, who created and patented the first practical method for producing industrial polyethylene.
It is used for a wide range of products, including:
Polyethylene is currently the largest volume plastic used across the world. The manufacturing process is relatively easy, allowing us to produce more than 70 million tonnes per year.
Here are eight reasons why polyethylene is so popular.
Polyethylene is a solvent-resistant plastic considered to be a safe, food-grade plastic that can also be used to cart drinkable water. It contains no known harmful chemicals, unlike many other types of plastic. Currently, worldwide production of polyethylene is less than 1 percent of the total amount of natural gas and crude oil usage. It is highly recyclable. The manufacturing process is clean and emits a minimal amount of harmful substances and there is hardly any waste.
There are many types of polyethylene. High density polyethylene (HDPE), low density polyethylene (LDPE) and linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) all have different tensile strengths. HDPE is the highest and LDPE is the lowest. LLDPE provides high tensile strength, together with puncture and impact resistance, and it elongates when under stress.
In polyethylene manufacturing, branching of carbon atoms denotes the density and hence the molecular weight of the plastic. Denser branches lead to heavier polyethylene. LLDPE is made at lower pressures and temperatures via copolymerisation. This creates a narrower molecular weight distribution than standard LDPE.
Lightweight polyethylene’s properties make it flexible. This means a lightweight unit has a less compact intermolecular structure, which creates space for movement. LLDPE has a narrower distribution of molecular weight. When combined with linear structure, this creates flexibility with the ideal strength required for the particular unit.
LDPE and HDPE are commonly used in high voltage insulation systems. The British used it in World War II because polyethylene has very low-loss properties at very high frequency radio waves. Combined with it being thin and lightweight, this made it ideal for insulating communication cables.
UV stabilisers are frequently used to prevent the long-term effects of ultraviolet exposure to plastic.
Because polyethylene is moisture-vapour resistant, it is rust and corrosion free. It stands up to weathering exposure, including salt water as well as harsh chemicals.
Most varieties of polyethylene have a high chemical resistance, which means they are not attacked by strong bases or acids. They also provide advantages of electrical and moisture-vapour resistance.
Polyethylene is impervious to the majority of chemicals, making it ideal for storing corrosive substances. Sitecraft provides a variety of polyethylene safety cabinets ranging in size from 50 to 250 litre cabinets as well as the popular one piece polyethylene storage cabinet.