Thermosetting plastic

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Thermosetting plastics (thermosets) are polymer materials that cure, through the addition of energy, to a stronger form. The energy may be in the form of heat (generally above 200 degrees Celsius), through a chemical reaction (two-part epoxy, for example), or irradiation.

Thermoset materials are usually liquid or malleable prior to curing, and designed to be molded into their final form, or used as adhesives.

The curing process transforms the resin into a plastic or rubber by a cross-linking process. Energy and/or catalysts are added that cause the molecular chains to react at chemically active sites (unsaturated or epoxy sites, for example), linking into a rigid, 3-D structure. The cross-linking process forms a molecule with a larger molecular weight, resulting in a material with a higher melting point. During the reaction, when the molecular weight has increased to a point so that the melting point is higher than the surrounding ambient temperature, the material forms into a solid material. Subsequent uncontrolled reheating of the material results in reaching the decomposition temperature before the melting point is obtained. A thermoset material cannot be melted and re-shaped after it is cured.

Thermoset materials are generally stronger than thermoplastic materials due to this 3-D network of bonds, and are also better suited to high-temperature applications up to the decomposition temperature of the material. They do not lend themselves to recycling like thermoplastics, which can be melted and re-molded.

Some examples of Thermosets are:

Methods used to mold thermosets

See also

cs:Reaktoplast de:Duroplastnl:Thermoharder


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