The key difference between polycarbonate and Plexiglass is that polycarbonate contains carbonate linkages as repeating units, whereas Plexiglass contains methyl methacrylate units as repeating units.
Polycarbonate and Plexiglass are polymers. Polycarbonate is a synthetic resin in which the monomer units link with each other through carbonate linkages while Plexiglass is the trade name for polymethyl methacrylate. They have different chemical structures, thus different physical properties and applications.
What is Polycarbonate?
Polycarbonate is a synthetic resin whose monomer units link to each other through carbonate linkages. This material is a form of plastic that forms from the reaction between Bisphenol A and phosgene, which are two are monomers that do not contain any carbonate groups. However, after polymerization, the polymer chains are composed of carbonate linkages, which leads to name these polymers as polycarbonates.
Polycarbonate polymers contain aromatic rings. This material is available in different colours. Usually, these polymers have a transparent nature, but we can make some coloured products that are typically translucent, depending on the intensity of colour.
When considering the polymerization process of polycarbonate, it is a step-growth polymerization process. In this process, a condensation reaction that involves two functional groups occurs (an unsaturated monomer is not involved). Polycarbonate is a strong and transparent material. Furthermore, the toughness and optical clarity of this material make it suitable for indoor and outdoor applications as well. Polycarbonate is easily machined, and this also material has good dimensional stability with a high impact strength.
What is Plexiglass?
Plexiglass is the trade name for polymethyl methacrylate. It is a polymer material. The IUPAC name of this polymer is Poly(methyl 2-methyl propanoate), and the chemical formula of the repeating unit of the polymer is (C5O2H8)n. However, the molar mass varies. The density is 1.18 g/cm3, and the melting point is 160 °C. There are three major ways of synthesizing this polymer: emulsion polymerization, solution polymerization and bulk polymerization.
Lucite is the tradename of polymethyl methacrylate. Other well-known tradenames are Crylux, Plexiglass, Acrylite, and Perspex. It is a transparent thermoplastic polymer. It is important as an alternative to glass in its sheet form. Moreover, it is useful as a cast resin in inks and coatings.
In addition to these, this polymer is strong, tough and has a lightweight. The density of this polymer is less than half of the density of glass. However, it has a higher impact strength than glass and polystyrene. Apart from that, this polymer can transmit around 92% of visible light, so it can also filter UV light having a wavelength below 300 nm.
What is the Difference Between Polycarbonate and Plexiglass?
Polycarbonate and Plexiglass are polymer materials. The key difference between polycarbonate and Plexiglass is that polycarbonate contains carbonate linkages as repeating unit whereas Plexiglass contains methyl methacrylate units as the repeating unit.
Moreover, polycarbonate contains aromatic rings while Plexiglass has no aromatic rings. So, this is another difference between polycarbonate and Plexiglass.
Below infographic summarizes the differences between polycarbonate and Plexiglass.
Summary – Polycarbonate vs Plexiglass
Polycarbonate and Plexiglass are polymer materials having different chemical structures; thus, have different properties and applications. The key difference between polycarbonate and Plexiglass is that polycarbonate contains carbonate linkages as repeating unit whereas Plexiglass contains methyl methacrylate units as the repeating unit.
1. “Poly(Methyl Methacrylate).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Aug. 2020, Available here.
2. “What Is Acrylic (PMMA) Plastic?” PMMA or Acrylic: Guide to Support Your Future ‘Transparent’ Developments, Omnexus, Available here.