Acrylic plastics find their way into everything from paints and plumbing fixtures to windshields and dental cement. Webster's Online Dictionary uses the words plastic and resin interchangeably to describe this substance.
Acrylic plastics or resins begin as a monomer, such as acrylic or methacrylic acid. Manufacturers create acrylic plastics by subjecting this raw material to heat and chemical catalysts, a process called polymerisation. A catalyst called methyl methacrylate. for instance, creates a clear plastic called polymethyl methacrylate or Plexiglas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Some acrylic resins feature the property of transparency, forming a clear, colourless substance that allows the passage of light through it. Polymethyl methacrylate demonstrates this characteristic, while also proving highly resistant to damage from sunlight or weather.
Acrylic plastics serve a variety of practical uses in fluid and hardened forms. Acrylic lacquers form a strong protective coating for outdoor decks, furnishings or even as a glossy finish for textiles or paper. Acrylics also serve as adhesives. Polymethyl methacrylate's optical qualities make it a popular choice for aquarium windows, display screens or external automobile lights.
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