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Robert Johnson Materials Science Laboratory Report #3 Unknown Polymer Identification Abstract The purpose of this report is to identify

the polymer used on a machine part for the processing division in a multi-division corporation. The small plastic part in this machine broke, and without a new part, the machine cannot function. In order to do this, lab members in an R&D lab performed a series of tests on five different polymers. One of these five polymers (polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polycarbonate, or poly(vinyl chloride)) is the polymer used in constructing the small plastic part. The tests that were performed in the lab are as follows: Visual inspection, density test, flame test, and two oven tests at different temperatures. After performing these tests and analyzing the results, it was concluded that the plastic piece was constructed from polypropylene.

Introduction A specialty machine that is used in the processing division of a multi-division corporation is out of order due to the failure of a small plastic piece. A replacement for this piece is necessary to keep the processing division running smoothly. Kauffman Ltd. manufactured the original part, however due to extenuating circumstances the specifications for the small plastic piece are unavailable. It has been agreed upon with the maintenance engineering department that the plastic piece was composed of one of five very common polymers: Polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polycarbonate, or poly(vinyl chloride). Through the use of an R&D lab and some very basic lab equipment, each polymer was tested allowing the polymer to be identified. Background The five polymers that were tested are as follows: Polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polycarbonate, and poly(vinyl chloride). In order to gain a better understanding of these materials, it is important to describe their individual properties and uses. Polyethylene is a thermoplastic polymer. A thermoplastic polymer is a polymer that, when heated, can become ductile and pliable, and can return to a solid state once cooled down. Polyethylenes monomer is C2H4. A monomer is a stable molecule from which a polymer is synthesized(Rethwisch & Callister, 876). Essentially, a monomer is the building block of a polymer. Some common uses for polyethylene are plastic bags, bottles, and plastic films(Uses of Polymers and Plastics). Polypropylene is also a thermoplastic polymer. It is based on the monomer CnH2n(Lenntech), where n is an integer. This implies that there are many different types of polypropylene, varying with a changing value of n. Some common uses for polypropylene are packing, plastic bags,

plastic films, and bottles (Polypropylene Properties and Uses). Polystyrene is a synthetic aromatic polymer. Polystyrenes monomer is (C8H8)n, where is an integer. This again means that there can be many different types of polystyrene, varying with n. Polystyrene is a very common plastic, used in applications such as CD and DVD cases, lids, bottles, tumblers, and cutlery (Uses of Polymers and Plastics). Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic polymer. It is a polymer that is easily molded and manipulated with application of heat. Due to this, some of its applications are electronic components, construction materials, data storage, and automotive, aircraft, and security components (Uses of Polymers and Plastics). Lastly, poly(vinyl-chloride), is a very widely produced plastic that is used widely in construction. Specifically, it is very commonly used for pipes, electric cables, signs, and furniture (Uses of Polymers and Plastics). The chemical forumula is (C2H3Cl)n. Table 1.1 below shows each polymer tested along with their mechanical and chemical properties. Table 1.1: Mechanical and Chemical Properties of Select Polymers
Density(g/cm^3) Youngs Modulus(Gpa) Melting Point(C) Yield Strength(Mpa) Tensile Strength (Mpa) 0.172 - 0.282(LD), 137(HD), 9.0-14.5(LD), 26.28.3-31.4(LD), 22.1Polyethylene (C2H4)n 0.925 - 0.959 1.08(HD) 115(LD) 33.1(HD) 31.0(HD) Polystyrene (C8H8)n 1.05 2.28 - 3.28 240 25.0 - 69.0 35.9 - 51.7 Polypropylene (C3H6)n 0.905 1.5 - 2 175 31.0 - 37.2 31.0 - 41.4 Polycarbonate C16H14O3 (Repeat Unit) 1.29 2.39 265.556 62.1 62.8 - 72.4 Poly(vinyl-chloride) (C2H3Cl)n 1.30 - 1.58 29.4 212.77 40.7 - 44.8 40.7 - 57.7 Polymer Molecular Formula

While performing this lab, a few key properties were looked at in order to help determine which polymer the small plastic piece was made out of. The key properties that were tested were: appearance, density, flame color, and melting characteristics at 140C and 220C. Through analysis of each of these properties, the team was able to determine what polymer the small plastic piece was constructed out of.

Experimental Methods The main goal of this experiment was to test each of the polymers, determine their key properties that were described above, and ultimately decide which polymer the small plastic piece is constructed out of. This was done using a very methodical process. The process is listed below, followed by an in depth explanation of each process: 1. Visual Inspection 2. Density Test 3. Flame Test 4. Oven Test (140C) 5. Oven Test (220C) Step 1 was the visual inspection. To perform the visual inspection, the team members obtained a small, pebble like sample and looked at it closely with the naked eye. Some of the key visual properties that were recorded were color, clarity, and shape. Step 2 was the density test. To perform the density test, the team members obtained a sample of each polymer and placed the sample into a beaker of water. If the sample floated, the polymer was recorded as having a lower density then water. If the sample sank to the bottom, the polymer was recorded as having a higher density then water. Water was assumed to have a density of 1 g/cm^3 during this experiment. The only piece of equipment used in this step was a beaker of water, shown in Figure 1.1 below. Step 3 was the flame test. To perform the flame test, the team members obtained a sample of each polymer and held them to an open flame. The team members recorded what color the flame turned, whether or not the sample melted, as well as what color the smoke emitted was. The only piece of equipment used in this step was a wax candle, shown in Figure

1.2. Step 4 and Step 5 were the oven tests. To perform the oven tests, two samples of each polymer were obtained. One of each sample were placed in the first oven and the second oven, heated to 140C and 220C, respectively. After about 20 minutes, the samples were removed from the ovens and observed. The team members visually inspected the heated samples and recorded how much each of them melted. The pieces of equipment used for these steps were two ovens, shown in Figure 1.3. Figure 1.1: Beaker of water Figure 1.3: Lab Oven

Figure 1.2: Wax Candle

Results and Discussion By following the procedure described above, the following results can be obtained. The results can be viewed in Table 1.2 below: Table 1.2: Experimental Results
Test Visual Test Density Polyethylene Opaque, Cloudy, SemiRound Less Than H20 Black Smoke, Turns Black, Melts, Blue Flame Slightly Melted Melted Polypropylene Slightly Cloudy, Opaque Less Than H20 Black Smoke, Blue/Orange Flame Not Melted Melted Polystyrene Spherical, Cloudy, Opaque Greater Than H20 Polycarbonate Transparent Greater Than H20 Black Smoke, Turns Brown then Black, Yellow Flame Not Melted Not Melted Poly(vinyl-chloride) Cloudy Greater Than H20 Unknown Polymer Opaque Less Than H20 Black Smoke, Blue/Orange Flame, Turns Black Melted Very Slightly Slightly Melted

Flame Test Oven 140C Oven 220C

Orange Flame, Black Smoke Not Melted Yellow/Clear/Slightly Melted

Orange Flame, Black Smoke Not Melted Slightly Melted

Using basic laboratory equipment, the lab team members were able to obtain these results. By using this table, it is easy to compare the properties of the unknown polymer with the rest of the polymers. In order to determine the unknown material, it is necessary to analyze each tests result step by step and compare the results with the results of the known polymers. First up is the visual test. When comparing all of the different polymers, the unknown polymer was the most similar to polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene. They all had opaque visual characteristics. Next up is the density test. The unknown polymers density was less than H20. This matches up with polyethylene and polypropylene. This test was very useful because of how much it narrows down our choices. The next test was the Flame test. When comparing the unknown polymer with the rest of the polymers, the unknown polymer and polypropylene both had a blue/orange flame, even further narrowing down the results. Both of the oven tests were very ambiguous, however, it appears that polyethylene and polypropylene provided similar results.

Conclusion In order to help understand the process that was used to determine the unknown polymer, a tree diagram and an in depth explanation is provided below in Figure 1.4: Figure 1.4: Tree Diagram of Results and Conclusion

In order to come to the conclusion that polypropylene was the polymer used to construct the small plastic part the lab team took a very methodical approach while reviewing the results. First, the team compared each of the five polymers characteristics with the characteristics of the unknown polymer. The polymers that had characteristics matching those of the unknown polymer were recorded. Then, the team looked at the matching polymers and observed which is the most commonly similar with the unknown polymer. As the tree diagram shows, the

unknown polymer must be polypropylene. Polypropylene was the only polymer that had the same characteristic blue/orange flame that the unknown polymer had. The polypropylene also had matching density and melting characteristics. It should be noted that the visual test was not taken into heavy consideration due to the large amount of ambiguity present with this test. In conclusion, the unknown polymer that the small plastic piece was constructed out of is polypropylene.


The Uses of Polymers and Plastics offered by K Polymers. (n.d.). K Polymers - Engineering and Commodity Plastic Resins Supplier. Retrieved April 11, 2013, from Polypropylene Properties and Uses. (n.d.). Buzzle. Retrieved April 11, 2013, from

Callister, W. D. J., & Rethwisch, D. G. (2012).Fundamentals of materials science and engineering. (4th Edition ed.). John Wiley & Sons Inc.