Conservation of Plastics: Materials science, degradation and by Yvonne Shashoua

By Yvonne Shashoua

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Polycarbonate is impact resistant and transparent, has good electrical insulation properties and can withstand temperatures up to 150°C. It has been employed widely in the electrical and electronics industry and had largely replaced aluminium in household appliances by the end of the 1970s. The most widely recognized applications for polycarbonate are as the base materials for CDs and DVDs. New plastics developed since 1970 have been highly specialized and applied to high temperature engineering and medicine rather than for general applications.

This discovery was a milestone in the history of plastics. Ebonite was the first plastics material to be produced by chemical modification of a natural polymer and was used to form buttons, jewellery, and match boxes. The theory of the crosslinking reaction behind the production of ebonite was not understood at that point. Natural polymers were less dense, more robust and cheaper than glass and ceramics but were not available in the wide range of colours and forms required by artists. Such needs inspired the development of synthetic alternatives.

2). Cellulose acetate (CA) Schutzenberger first attempted to acetylate cellulose in 1865, but found the reaction too difficult to control. Treatment with acetic acid and acetic anhydride resulted in replacement of all three hydroxyl groups in cellulose with acetyl groups (—OCOCH3) to form the triacetate, a material with poor mechanical properties and only soluble in expensive chlorinated solvents. It was discovered Preparation of cellulose nitrate involves replacing the hydroxyl (OH) groups on each of the many repeat units of cellulose.

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