Polycarbonate: Wikis


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Repeating chemical structure unit of
Polycarbonate made from bisphenol A
Physical Properties
Density (ρ) 1.20–1.22 g/cm3
Abbe number (V) 34.0
Refractive index (n) 1.584–1.586
Flammability V0-V2
Limiting oxygen index 25–27%
Water absorption - Equilibrium(ASTM) 0.16–0.35%
Water absorption - over 24 hours 0.1%
Radiation resistance Fair
Ultraviolet (1-380nm) resistance Fair
Mechanical Properties
Young's modulus (E) 2.0–2.4 GPa
Tensile strength (σt) 55–75 MPa
Compressive strength (σc) >80 MPa
Elongation (ε) @ break 80–150%
Poisson's ratio (ν) 0.37
Hardness - Rockwell M70
Izod impact strength 600–850 J/m
Notch test 20–35 kJ/m2
Abrasive resistance - ASTM D1044 10–15 mg/1000 cycles
Coefficient of friction (μ) 0.31
Speed of sound 2270 m/s
Thermal Properties
Melting temperature (Tm) 267 °C*
Glass transition temperature(Tg) 150 °C
Heat deflection temperature - 10 kN (Vicat B)[citation needed] 145 °C
Heat deflection temperature - 0.45 MPa 140 °C
Heat deflection temperature - 1.8 MPa 128–138 °C
Upper working temperature 115–130 °C
Lower working temperature –40 °C[1]
Linear thermal expansion coefficient (α) 65–70 × 10−6/K
Specific heat capacity (c) 1.2–1.3 kJ/(kg·K)
Thermal conductivity (k) @ 23 °C 0.19–0.22 W/(m·K)
Electrical Properties
Dielectric constant (εr) @ 1 MHz 2.9
Permittivity (ε) @ 1 MHz 2.568 × 10–11 F/m
Relative permeability (μr) @ 1 MHz 0.866(2)
Permeability (μ) @ 1 MHz 1.089(2) μN/A2
Dielectric strength 15–67 kV/mm
Dissipation factor @ 1 MHz 0.01
Surface resistivity 1015 Ω/sq
Volume resistivity (ρ) 1012–1014 Ω·m
Near to Short-wave Infrared Transmittance Spectrum
IR transmittance of polycarbonate. Also, polycarbonate is almost completely transparent throughout the entire visible region until 400 nm, blocking UV light.
Chemical Resistance
Acids - concentrated Poor
Acids - dilute Good
Alcohols Good
Alkalis Good-Poor
Aromatic hydrocarbons Poor
Greases & Oils Good-fair
Halogenated Hydrocarbons Good-poor
Halogens Poor
Ketones Poor
Gas permeation @ 20 °C
Nitrogen 10 – 25 cm3·mm/(m2·day·Bar)
Oxygen 70 – 130 cm3·mm/(m2·day·Bar)
Carbon dioxide 400 – 800 cm3·mm/(m2·day·Bar)
Water vapour 1–2 gram·mm/(m2·day) @ 85%–0% RH gradient)
Economic Properties
Price 5–9 /kg

Polycarbonates are a particular group of thermoplastic polymers. They are easily worked, moulded, and thermoformed; as such, these plastics are very widely used in the modern chemical industry. Their interesting features (temperature resistance, impact resistance and optical properties) position them between commodity plastics and engineering plastics. Polycarbonates do not have a unique plastic identification code and are identified as Other, 7.



Polycarbonates received their name because they are polymers having functional groups linked together by carbonate groups (-O-(C=O)-O-) in a long molecular chain. Also carbon monoxide was used as a C1-synthon on an industrial scale to produce diphenyl carbonate, being later trans-esterified with a diphenolic derivative affording poly (aromatic carbonate)s.

Taking into consideration the C1-synthon polycarbonates can be divided into poly(aromatic carbonate)s and poly(aliphatic carbonate)s. The latter are a product of the reaction of carbon dioxide with epoxides, which owing to the kinetic stability of carbon dioxide requires the use of a catalyst. The working systems are based on porphyrins, alkoxides, carboxylates, salens and beta-diiminates as organic, chelating ligands and aluminium, zinc, cobalt and chromium as the metal centres. Poly(aliphatic carbonate)s display promising characteristics, have a better biodegradability than the aromatic ones and could be employed to develop other specialty polymers.[citation needed]

The most common type of polycarbonate plastic is made from bisphenol A (BPA).[2] This polycarbonate is a very durable material, and can be laminated to make bullet-proof "glass", though “bullet-resistant” would be more accurate. Although polycarbonate has high impact-resistance, it has low scratch-resistance and so a hard coating is applied to polycarbonate eyewear lenses and polycarbonate exterior automotive components. The characteristics of polycarbonate are quite like those of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA; acrylic), but polycarbonate is stronger, usable in a larger temperature range and more expensive. This polymer is highly transparent to visible light and has better light transmission characteristics than many kinds of glass. CR-39 is a specific polycarbonate material — although it is usually referred to as CR-39 plastic — with good optical and mechanical properties, frequently used for eyeglass lenses.


Polycarbonate can be synthesized from bisphenol A and phosgene (carbonyl dichloride, COCl2). The first step in the synthesis of polycarbonate from bisphenol A is treatment of bisphenol A with sodium hydroxide. This deprotonates the hydroxyl groups of the bisphenol A molecule.

Bisphenol A plus NaOH.PNG

The deprotonated oxygen reacts with phosgene through carbonyl addition to create a tetrahedral intermediate (not shown here), after which the negatively charged oxygen kicks off a chloride ion (Cl-) to form a chloroformate.

Bisphenolate A plus Phosgene.PNG

The chloroformate is then attacked by another deprotonated bisphenol A, eliminating the remaining chloride ion and forming a dimer of bisphenol A with a carbonate linkage in between.

Adding Bisphenolate A to Chloroformate.PNG

Repetition of this process yields a polycarbonate with alternating carbonate groups and groups from bisphenol A.


Polycarbonate has a glass transition temperature of about 150 °C (302 °F), so it softens gradually above this point and flows above about 300 °C (572 °F). Injection moulding is more difficult than other common thermoplastics owing to its non-Newtonian fluid flow behaviour. Tools must be held at high temperatures, generally above 80 °C (176 °F) to make strain- and stress-free products. Low molecular mass grades are easier to mould than higher grades, but their strength is lower as a result. The toughest grades have the highest molecular mass, but are much more difficult to process.


Polycarbonate is becoming more common in housewares as well as laboratories and in industry, especially in applications where any of its main features—high impact resistance, temperature resistance, optical properties—are required.

Main transformation techniques for polycarbonate resins:

  • extrusion into tubes, rods and other profiles
  • extrusion with cylinders into sheets (0.5–15 mm (0.020–0.59 in)) and films (below 1 mm (0.039 in)), which can be used directly or manufactured into other shapes using thermoforming or secondary fabrication techniques, such as bending, drilling, routing, laser cutting etc.
  • injection molding into ready articles
A bottle made from polycarbonate

Typical injected applications:

Typical sheet/film application:

  • Advertisement: signs, displays, poster protection
  • Building: domelights, flat or curved glazing, and sound walls
  • Computers: laptops and computer cases
  • Industry: machined or formed, cases, machine glazing, riot shields, visors, instrument panels
  • Hobby: Machined into fins, gyro mounts, and flybar locks for use with Remote Control Helicopters [3]

For use in applications exposed to weathering or UV-radiation, a special surface treatment is needed. This either can be a coating (e.g. for improved abrasion resistance), or a coextrusion for enhanced weathering resistance.

Some polycarbonate grades are used in medical applications and comply with both ISO 10993-1 and USP Class VI standards (occasionally referred to as PC-ISO). Class VI is the most stringent of the six USP ratings. These grades can be sterilized using steam at 120 °C, gamma radiation or the ethylene oxide (EtO) method.[4] However, scientific research indicates possible problems with biocompatibility. Dow Chemical strictly limits all its plastics with regard to medical applications.[5][6]

The cockpit canopy of the F-22 Raptor jet fighter is made from a piece of high optical quality polycarbonate, and is the largest piece of its type formed in the world.[7][8]

In the automotive industry, injection moulded polycarbonate can produce very smooth surfaces that make it well suited for direct (without the need for a basecoat) metalised parts such as decorative bezels and optical reflectors. Its uniform mould shrinkage results in parts with greater accuracy than those made of polypropylene. However, due to its susceptibility to environmental stress cracking, its use is limited to low stress applications.

Being based on bisphenol A (a substance obtained from phenol, which in turn is based on benzene) pricing is largely dependent on phenol and benzene pricing.


Trade names

Other trade names for polycarbonate include:

  • Calibre from Dow Chemicals
  • Iupilon from Mitsubishi Engineering-Plastics Corp.
  • Lexan from SABIC Innovative Plastics (formerly General Electric Plastics)
  • Makrolife from Arlaplast
  • Makrolon from Bayer
  • Panlite from Teijin Chemical Limited
  • Tarflon from Idemitsu Kosan Co.Ltd.
  • LBE from Rodeca GmbH

Potential hazards in food contact applications

Polycarbonate may be appealing to manufacturers and purchasers of food storage containers due to its clarity, toughness, or light weight, especially when compared to silica glass. Polycarbonate may be seen in the form of single use and refillable plastic water bottles.

More than 100 studies have explored the bioactivity of bisphenol A leachates from polycarbonates. Bisphenol A appeared to be released from polycarbonate animal cages into water at room temperature and it may have been responsible for enlargement of the reproductive organs of female mice.[9]

An analysis of the literature on bisphenol A leachate low-dose effects by vom Saal and Hughes published in August 2005 seems to have found a suggestive correlation between the source of funding and the conclusion drawn. Industry funded studies tend to find no significant effects while government funded studies tend to find significant effects.[10]

Research by Ana M. Soto, professor of anatomy and cellular biology at Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, published October 2006 in the online edition of Reproductive Toxicology[11] describes exposure of pregnant rats to bisphenol A at 2.5 to 1 mg per kilogram of body weight per day. At the equivalent of puberty for the pups (50 days old), about 25% of their mammary ducts had precancerous lesions, some three to four times higher than unexposed controls. The study is cited as evidence for the hypothesis that environmental exposure to bisphenol A as a fetus can cause breast cancer in adult women.[12]

An expert panel of 12 scientists has found that there is "some concern that exposure to the chemical bisphenol A in utero causes neural and behavioral effects," according to the draft report prepared by The National Toxicology Program (NTP) Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction. For the general adult population, the expert panel found a "negligible concern for adverse reproductive effects following exposures."[13]

A study of cross-sectional data from the 2003-2004 U.S. National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey published in the September 17, 2008 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) demonstrated positive and statistically significant correlations between the concentration of bisphenol A in the urine and self-reported histories of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.[14]

One point of agreement among those studying polycarbonate water and food storage containers may be that using sodium hypochlorite bleach and other alkali cleaners to clean polycarbonate is not recommended, as they catalyze the release of the bisphenol A. The tendency of polycarbonate to release bisphenol A was discovered after a lab tech used strong cleaners on polycarbonate lab containers. Endocrine disruption later observed on lab rats was traced to exposure from the cleaned containers.[15][16]

On April 18, 2008, Health Canada announced that "some laboratory studies on animals suggest that bisphenol A at low levels of exposure can affect neural development and behaviour when experimental animals are exposed in very early life. However, there is some uncertainty in interpreting how these findings might be relevant to human health.".[17]

Chemical compatibility

A chemical compatibility chart shows reactivity between chemicals such as polycarbonate and a cleaning agent.[18] Alcohol is one recommended organic solvent for cleaning grease and oils from polycarbonate. For treating mold, borax:H2O 1:96 to 1:8 may be effective.[citation needed]

Compatibility with various chemicals[18]
Will damage polycarbonate Require caution Considered safe
† At room temperature. Above 60 °C hydrolysis degradation can occur. Degradation also depends on time.[19]

Using sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and other alkali cleaners on polycarbonate is not recommended as they cause the release of bisphenol A, a known endocrine disruptor.

See also


  1. ^ M. Parvin and J. G. Williams (1975). "The effect of temperature on the fracture of polycarbonate". Journal of Materials Science 10 (11): 1883. doi:10.1007/BF00754478. 
  2. ^ "Polycarbonate (PC) Polymer Resin". Alliance Polymers, Inc. http://www.alliancepoly.com/polycarbonate.asp. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  3. ^ [http:http://clearly.wavelandps.com/products.pdf Hobby Applications of Polycarbonate]
  4. ^ Medical Applications of Polycarbonate
  5. ^ "Dow Plastics Medical Application Policy". http://plastics.dow.com/plastics/medical/. 
  6. ^ "Makrolon Polycarbonate Biocompatibility Grades". http://www.omnexus.com/tc/polycarbonate/index.aspx?id=biocompatibility. 
  7. ^ http://www.pacaf.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123136810
  8. ^ http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/f-22-cockpit.htm
  9. ^ Howdeshell, KL; Peterman PH, Judy BM, Taylor JA, Orazio CE, Ruhlen RL, Vom Saal FS, Welshons WV (2003). "Bisphenol A is released from used polycarbonate animal cages into water at room temperature". Environmental Health Perspectives 111 (9): 1180–7. doi:10.1289/ehp.5993. PMID 12842771.& PMC 1241572. http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2003/5993/5993.html. Retrieved 2006-06-07. 
  10. ^ vom Saal FS, Hughes C (2005). "An extensive new literature concerning low-dose effects of bisphenol A shows the need for a new risk assessment". Environ. Health Perspect. 113 (8): 926–33. PMID 16079060. 
  11. ^ Murray, Tj; Maffini, Mv; Ucci, Aa; Sonnenschein, C; Soto, Am (2007). "Induction of mammary gland ductal hyperplasias and carcinoma in situ following fetal bisphenol A exposure.". Reproductive toxicology (Elmsford, N.Y.) 23 (3): 383–90. doi:10.1016/j.reprotox.2006.10.002. ISSN 0890-6238. PMID 17123778. 
  12. ^ Bisphenol A May Trigger Human Breast Cancer, December 6, 2006
  13. ^ Julie's Health Club - Where alternative and mainstream health meet|Chicago Tribune|Blog|Julie's Health Club
  14. ^ Lang, Iain A.; Tamara S. Galloway, Alan Scarlett, William E. Henley, Michael Depledge, Robert B. Wallace, and David Melzer (2008). "Association of Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration with Medical Disorders and Laboratory Abnormalities in Adults". Journal of the American Medical Association 300 (1): 1303–1310. doi:10.1001/jama.300.11.1303. PMID 18799442. 
  15. ^ Hunt, PA; Kara E. Koehler, Martha Susiarjo, Craig A. Hodges, Arlene Ilagan, Robert C. Voigt, Sally Thomas, Brian F. Thomas and Terry J. Hassold (2003). "Bisphenol A Exposure Causes Meiotic Aneuploidy in the Female Mouse". Current Biology 13 (7): 546–553. doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(03)00189-1. PMID 12676084. 
  16. ^ Koehler, KE; Robert C. Voigt, Sally Thomas, Bruce Lamb, Cheryl Urban, Terry Hassold, and Patricia A. Hunt (2003). "When disaster strikes: rethinking caging materials". Lab Animal 32 (4): 24–27. doi:10.1038/laban0403-24. PMID 19753748. http://www.mindfully.org/Plastic/Plasticizers/BPA-Lab-Animal-CagesApr03.htm. 
  17. ^ "Questions and Answers for Action on Bisphenol A Under the Chemicals Management Plan". http://www.chemicalsubstanceschimiques.gc.ca/fact-fait/bisphenol-a_qa-qr-eng.php. 
  18. ^ a b Premium Twinwall and Triplewall Polycarbonate Sheet by Verolite
  19. ^ "Polycarbonate: High-Performance Engineering Thermoplastic". nhml.com. http://www.nhml.com/resources/2001/4/1/polycarbonate-high-performance-engineering-thermoplastic. Retrieved February 23, 2010. 

Simple English

Polycarbonate is transparent thermoplastic. This material is tough and stable. It can resist a high temperature of 280°F and a low temperature of -40 °F. It is stain resistant and non-toxic. Polycarbonate weighs six times less than glass.

Industries use polycarbonate for making different products, from bulletproof windows to CDs and DVDs. The main advantages of polycarbonate are high strength and light weight.

Industries use clear polycarbonate to make eyeglasses. This is because it has a very good transparency and durability. Lenses made from clear polycarbonate can be thinner than lenses made from ordinary glass.

Companies that create electronic equipment use polycarbonate to create the cover of cell phones, laptops and other products. Although polycarbonate is not toxic, it needs toxic chemicals during its production phase.

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