Qualities of Acrylic Plastic

Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The clear, bouncy material you see in front of the ticket booth at the movies or in the teller booth at the bank is more than likely a substance called Plexiglas, or acrylic plastic. It is used in many areas where regular glass may not be strong enough or may pose a hazard.

Acrylic plastic has several qualities that make it ideal for a variety of applications.


Acrylic plastic, which is a polymer of methyl methacrylate also known as polymethyl methacrylate, is engineered to be stronger than glass while still appearing glasslike. It is used to make drink and food containers that will not break when dropped a short distance. It's strength is limited, however, because it cannot withstand bullets or explosion impacts.

Resistance to Weather Damage

Acrylic plastic is also resistant to weather damage. It is waterproof and does a superb job of keeping out rain when properly sealed, like window glass. However, unlike regular window glass, it can resist strong winds and certain debris, such as small tree limbs, tossed during hurricanes and tornadoes.

Optical Clarity

Acrylic plastic is also renown for its optical clarity. It can be manufactured to be as transparent as glass. Because of this quality, acrylic plastic is used to make high-strength eyeglasses and lenses used in microscopes and other instruments.

Heat Resistance

Some types of acrylic plastic are also heat resistant. They can withstand high temperatures without melting or deforming and without releasing harmful smoke. These types of acrylic plastic are used in high-heat lamps and light fixtures.

Other Properties

There are a few other desirable properties of acrylic plastic. It is relatively cheap to produce in large quantities, which is why it is widely available. Most types of acrylic plastic are also not sensitive to ultraviolet radiation. It can be easily moulded, shaped and cut. Additionally, it is a good insulator for electrical components and is resistant to bacteria and some chemicals. Lastly, it can withstand extreme pressure and has been used in deep sea vessels.