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What Are the Properties of Polypropylene?

A polypropylene plastic container.
Polypropylene file holder.
Article Details
  • Written By: Paul Cartmell
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 01 July 2014
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Polypropylene is a form of thermoplastic used in the production of non-woven fiber and structural plastic products. The properties of polypropylene that make the material popular include the non-toxic and non-staining nature of the plastic, and the relatively inexpensive cost of production. During the production phase, polypropylene can be combined with other materials, such as rubber, to alter its properties.

The properties of polypropylene that make the plastic a popular choice for products include the lightweight nature of the material and its high tensile strength. This makes the plastic a very useful for use in products like food packaging. Polypropylene also has a strong resistance to cracking when placed under stress and a high level of impact resistance.

Plastic product producers often make use of polypropylene as an alternative to other types of plastic because it usually does not contain bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a chemical that is often used in the production of plastic products, but when used in food and drink packaging, BPA can leach into the contents of the containers. Although this chemical has not been proven to pose a health risk to children or adults in small amounts, many plastics manufacturers use BPA-free polypropylene to reduce the risks of health issues linked to the chemical.

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Among the properties of polypropylene are the ability to use the plastic products at high operating temperatures, up to 320°F (160°C). High temperature resistance means that these products can be used in microwaves and dishwashers. Although polypropylene is generally considered to be a microwave-safe plastic, there is still some concern that the high temperatures can break down the bonds in the plastic.

When used as a non-woven textile, polypropylene is softened, and fusion bonded together as slim fibers. The ability to fusion bond the material eliminates the need for additional chemicals to bond the fibers together. This allows the plastic to be used in the production of diapers and protective clothing.

The ability to recycle polypropylene products is another one of the important properties of polypropylene. During recycling, 100 percent of polypropylene can be recovered for future use. The plastic can be combined with other chemicals and materials, such as rubber and antioxidants, to alter its properties as well. Chemical additions to polypropylene have resulted in products such as PVC piping and biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) film.

The uses of polypropylene are affected by the properties of the material. The low level of electrical conductivity means the plastic can be used to minimize the passage of electricity passing through electrical products. Resistance to both acidic and alkali materials is high in polypropylene, but smells can be absorbed by the products manufactured from the plastic. During the production process, polypropylene plastics can be manufactured to maintain the specific amount of stiffness or flexibility required.

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