Thursday, December 13, 2012

The ubiquitous foam plastic - Thermocol!

In 1970s, I went to an exhibition conducted by a Polytechnic Institute located at Madurai, South India. There at one of the stalls, students were demonstrating to the public a block of white material that they cut by a heated wire! The hot nichrome wire stretching between two poles cut the block when it was applied from above and pressed down on it.
It was like slicing vegetables. That white material was of light weight and the students handled it like a feather. It is the common packaging material that we see now everywhere - the Thermocol! It is a foamed product of Polystyrene. This Polystyrene was then discovered by Edward Simon of Berlin in 1839. It is a thermoplastic - becomes a liquid on heating and turns into solid again on cooling, like wax! And so, it has been cast into moulds for its manifold uses. Polystyrene made into pellet form, known as Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) was produced in 1954. This is also used now extensively as a packaging and insulation material and is used in the production of disposable cups and plates. Polystyrene is chemically inert. And it does not biodegrade easily - remains on Earth for more than hundred years. But this 'sturdy' material dissolves easily in any organic solvent and is also inflammable!

This wonder plastic is now produced in tons and tons; so, we now see it all over the Earth, both on the land and the sea ubiquitously!


Kk Nag said...

I wonder if anyone else could have put it better! Absolutely second every word written here. Great job.

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