Polyethylene terephthalate (aka PET, PETE or the obsolete PETP or PET-P) is a thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family and is used in synthetic fibers; beverage, food and other liquid containers; thermoforming applications; and engineering resins often in combination with glass fiber. It is one of the most important raw materials used in man-made fibers.
Depending on its processing and thermal history, it may exist both as an amorphous (transparent) and as a semi-crystalline (opaque and white) material. Its monomer can be synthesized by the esterification reaction between terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol with water as a byproduct, or the transesterification reaction between ethylene glycol and dimethyl terephthalate with methanol as a byproduct. Polymerization is through a polycondensation reaction of the monomers (done immediately after esterification/transesterification) with ethylene glycol as the byproduct (the ethylene glycol is recycled in production).
The majority of the world's PET production is for synthetic fibers (in excess of 60%) with bottle production accounting for around 30% of global demand. In discussing textile applications, PET is generally referred to as simply "polyester" while "PET" is used most often to refer to packaging applications.
PET can be semi-rigid to rigid, depending on its thickness, and is very lightweight. It makes a good gas and fair moisture barrier, as well as a good barrier to alcohol (requires additional "Barrier" treatment) and solvents. It is strong and impact-resistant. It is naturally colorless and transparent.
When produced as a thin film (often known by the tradename Mylar), PET is often coated with aluminium to reduce its permeability, and to make it reflective and opaque. PET bottles are excellent barrier materials and are widely used for soft drinks, (see carbonation). PET or Dacron is also used as a thermal insulation layer on the outside of the International Space Station as seen in an episode of Modern Marvels "Sub Zero". For certain specialty bottles, PET sandwiches an additional polyvinyl alcohol to further reduce its oxygen permeability.
When filled with glass particles or fibers, it becomes significantly stiffer and more durable. This glass-filled plastic, in a semi-crystalline formulation, is sold under the tradename Rynite, Arnite, Hostadur& Crastin.
Sails are usually made of Dacron, a brand of PET fiber; colorful lightweight spinnakers are usually made of nylon.While all thermoplastics are technically recyclable, PET bottle recycling is more practical than many other plastic applications. The primary reason is that plastic carbonated soft drink bottles and water bottles are almost exclusively PET which makes them more easily identifiable in a recycle stream. PET has a resin identification code of 1. PET, as with many plastics, is also an excellent candidate for thermal recycling (incineration) as it is composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen with only trace amounts of catalyst elements (no sulfur) and has the energy content of soft coal. PET was patented in 1941 by the Calico Printers' Association of Manchester. The PET bottle was patented in 1973.
In addition to pure (homopolymer) PET, PET modified by copolymerization is also available. In some cases, the modified properties of copolymer are more desirable for a particular application. For example, cyclohexane dimethanol (CHDM) can be added to the polymer backbone in place of ethylene glycol. Since this building block is much larger (6 additional carbon atoms) than the ethylene glycol unit it replaces, it does not fit in with the neighboring chains the way an ethylene glycol unit would. This interferes with crystallization and lowers the polymer's melting temperature. Such PET is generally known as PETG (EastmanChemical and SKchemicals are the only two manufacturers).
Replacing terephthalic acid (right) with isophthalic acid (center) creates a kink in the PET chain, interfering with crystallization and lowering the polymer's melting point.Another common modifier is isophthalic acid, replacing some of the 1,4- (para-) linked terephthalate units. The 1,2- (ortho-) or 1,3- (meta-) linkage produces an angle in the chain, which also disturbs crystallinity. Such copolymers are advantageous for certain molding applications, such as thermoforming, which is used to make tray or blister packages from PET sheet (sometimes called APET, for "amorphous PET"). On the other hand, crystallization is important in other applications where mechanical and dimensional stability are important, such as seat belts. For PET bottles, the use of small amounts of CHDM or other comonomers can be useful: if only small amounts of comonomers are used, crystallization is slowed but not prevented entirely. As a result, bottles are obtainable via stretch blow molding ("SBM"), which are both clear and crystalline enough to be an adequate barrier to aromas and even gasses, such as the carbon dioxide in carbonated beverages.
Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is a thermoplastic made from oil. It was the first grade of polyethylene, produced in 1933 by Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) using a high pressure process via free radical polymerisation . Its manufacture employs the same method today.
LDPE is widely used for manufacturing various containers, dispensing bottles, wash bottles, tubing, plastic bags for computer components, and various molded laboratory equipment. Its most common use is in plastic bags.
Other products made from it include:
Trays & general purpose containers
Food storage and laboratory containers
Corrosion-resistant work surfaces
Parts that need to be weldable and machinable
Parts that require flexibility, for which it serves very well
Very soft and pliable parts
Six-pack soda can rings
Extrusion coating on paperboard and aluminum laminated for beverage cartons.
Computer components, such as hard drives, screen cards and disk-drives.