It would be impossible to go a day without encountering plastic. One of the most recognized plastics is polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is crucial for many industries and is often combined with other resins and materials to further enhance its properties. In this post, we discuss polycarbonate uses and benefits.
What is Polycarbonate?
Polycarbonate is a naturally transparent, amorphous engineering thermoplastic. The main polycarbonate is made of BPA (bisphenol A) and phosgene, but it is also made with BPA and diphenol carbonate.
Like many great inventions, polycarbonate was discovered by mistake. Interestingly, the discovery of its current structure occurred nearly simultaneously in different parts of the world. It began in Germany in 1898 when chemist Alfred Einhorn attempted to synthesize cyclic carbonates and produced polycarbonate by reacting hydroquinone with phosgene. After thirty years of experimenting, he still couldn’t commercialize it – the structure wasn’t quite right. By 1958, the polymer discovered in 1898 was improved and produced commercially by both Bayer in Germany and General Electric (GE) in the United States. The two versions were chemically the same but were structurally different. Priority was given to Bayer, and GE was granted a license to produce it. Today, neither company owns the rights.
Polycarbonate has many uses because of its desirable properties. Properties of polycarbonate include:
- Extreme durability
- High impact strength
- High dimensional stability
- Excellent optical clarity
- Excellent heat resistance
- UV resistance
- Can be combined with other materials and filled
Polycarbonate Uses by Market
Five million metric tons of polycarbonate plastic was consumed in 2022, and the forecast for growth moving forward is strong. Polycarbonate is used in nearly every industry.
The leading market sector in 2022 for polycarbonate is electrical and electronic, which was driven by increased sales of consumer electronic products. This market saw an extreme spike during the pandemic as people were forced to work and learn from home. The market has seen a decline as post-pandemic demand has decreased. However, its use is still higher than in 2019 and is expected to see single-digit growth through 2024, when electronic devices purchased during the pandemic will need to be replaced.
Polycarbonate is a good electrical insulator with heat-resistance and flame-retardant properties, making it ideal for electronics. It is used in many consumer electronics, including phone cases, television frames, CD/DVDs, audio/video components, and other electronic housings. Industrial uses include electrical connectors, plugs, housings, battery boxes, and applications near water.
Sheet/film, appliance/houseware, and automotive industries together made up almost half of the global consumption in the same year. Sheet/film saw a substantial increase in demand during the pandemic as companies used it for shields. While demand for that use has decreased, sheets can be used for room dividers, building applications, and bulletproof glass.
Polycarbonate’s strength and durability make it ideal for many uses around the home. Appliance and houseware use includes vacuum cleaner housings, appliance housings, power tools, homewares, children’s toys, and more.
Likewise, many of its properties make it ideal for automotive applications. Automotive uses include lighting systems, headlamp lenses, reflectors, housings and mountings, exterior panels, wheel covers, and bumpers.
Many other industries rely on polycarbonate because of its high-performance properties, but it can be combined with other polymers to provide additional benefits. In addition to the above, polycarbonate and blends are also used in optical lenses; agricultural applications, such as greenhouses; aerospace applications, such as backlit instrument panels and wire and cable casings; protective gear, such as police shields, helmets, and riot gear; and more.
Benefits of Polycarbonate Use
Polycarbonate is an easy-to-work-with and versatile polymer. As a thermoplastic, polycarbonate can be remelted and cooled again without a significant loss in quality. This makes it recyclable. It has working temperatures as low a -40°F to upwards of 266°F, making it ideal for various applications.
It offers many benefits, including:
- Good electrical properties
- Good thermal insulation
- 250 times stronger than glass
- Low moisture absorption
- Excellent light transmission
- Can withstand repeated steam sterilizations
EnCom Answers Your Polycarbonate Use Questions and More
Whether you have a question about polycarbonate use or a challenging application question, we can help. We help our customers succeed by using polymers and technical experience and know how to formulate problem-solving polymers. We offer several polycarbonates and blends. Each is available with a variety of enhancements, including glass fibers, minerals, UV stabilizers, fire retardants, and mold release agents.
EnPure – This is our polycarbonate polymer and is available with a number of different enhancements.
EnCounter – This blend of polycarbonate with Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) or Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) provides chemical resistance and other properties to the strength, stiffness, and impact resistance of polycarbonate.
EnVelop – Combining polycarbonate with AES creates a polymer with the strength, toughness, and heat-resistant properties of polycarbonate but offers UV and weather resistance greater than that of ASA.
EnValoy – This polymer combines polycarbonate with acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), providing better processability while maintaining polycarbonate’s mechanical properties.
EnVoy – Acrylic-styrene-acrylonitrile terpolymer (ASA) is blended with polycarbonate to provide enhanced heat, cold, UV, and weathering resistance.
If you aren’t sure what you need or have a technical question, all of our field and sales professionals are engineers with experience in application development and can answer your questions quickly. We invite you to work with our team to determine the formulation that best fits your application and process. If it doesn’t exist today, we will create it to ensure that their project is successful.
Contact us, and let’s discuss your polymer needs.
For More Information
Please call our main office at (866) 481-7700 and ask to speak to a technical specialist.