The key difference between polycarbonate and plastic is that polycarbonates are lighter but, much stronger than plastic.
Polycarbonate and plastic are polymer materials. Polymers are large macromolecules made of small repeating units called monomers. The monomers of polycarbonates are bisphenol A and phosgene. The monomers of plastic depend on the type of plastic; there are two major types of plastics as thermoplastics and thermosetting polymers.
What is Polycarbonate?
Polycarbonate is a type of plastic. It is very tough; therefore, very hard to break. Furthermore, it is a polymer, and the monomer unit of this has carbonate groups. Thus, they are named as polycarbonates. And, it is made up by repeatedly combining units with the following chemical structure.
Polycarbonate polymer forms from the reaction between bisphenol A and phosgene COCl2. These are high molecular weight polymers. Importantly, it turns into a liquid state when heated and, when cooled, it freezes into a glassy state. Therefore, it is a thermoplastic polymer. Therefore, we can easily mould and shape it into the required forms. And, because of this property, polycarbonates are useful in various applications.
Furthermore, polycarbonates are durable and highly resistant. It is stable in higher temperatures like 280 °F and lower temperatures like -40 °F without any deformation. Moreover, it is transparent to visible light. Therefore, we can use this compound for bulletproof windows, eyeglasses, etc. The advantage of using this polymer material rather than glass or any other plastic is that polycarbonates are lightweight but is relatively stronger in comparison to others.
Moreover, it has a high refractive index and can also bend and make glasses with equal thickness. Lenses made of this material are very thin, and they bend light more than glass or plastic. Also, it is useful in making compact disks (CDs) and Digital versatile discs (DVD)s. Furthermore, we can use polycarbonates in electronics as well. For example, cell phone, laptop or computer covers are made of this material. In addition, they are useful as automotive components.
What is Plastic?
Plastic is a polymer that has a large molecular mass. The monomers of plastic can be natural or synthetic. Mostly, we produce this material from petrochemicals. There are two types of plastics: thermoplastics and thermosetting polymers. Thermoplastics becomes soft when heated and when cooled, it solidifies again. With continuous heating and cooling, we can change its shape without a problem (e.g. polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC, polystyrene). However, when thermosetting polymers are heated and cooled, it becomes hard permanently. When heated, we can mould it, but if we heat it again, it will decompose (E.g.: Bakelite, which is used to make handles of pots and pans).
Plastics are widely in use in different forms; for example bottles, bags, boxes, fibers, films, etc. Moreover, we can use this material for many purposes because of its high resistance to chemicals; they are thermal and electric insulators as well. Different plastics have different strengths. The major ways of production of this material include condensation and addition reactions. Cross-linking is possible between polymer chains in the synthesizing process.
For instance, we can produce this compound by an addition reaction of the monomer ethylene. Its repeating unit is –CH2–. Depending on the way we let it polymerize, the properties of the synthesized polyethylene change. PVC or polyvinyl chloride is similar to polyethylene, with a monomer of CH2=CH2Cl, but the difference is PVC has chlorine atoms. PVC is rigid and we use it to manufacture pipes.
Plastic has become a very controversial issue in the present day due to its incapability of degradation. Plastics make up a considerable percentage in our garbage; therefore, it keeps on increasing on the earth surface.
What is the Difference Between Polycarbonate and Plastic?
Polycarbonate is a type of plastic. Plastic is a polymer that has a large molecular mass. The key difference between polycarbonate and plastic is that polycarbonates are lighter but much stronger than plastic. Also, another significant difference between polycarbonate and plastic is that the polycarbonate can be made thinner than plastic. Moreover, Polycarbonate is durable and hard to break in comparison to plastic.
Below infographic shows more details on the difference between polycarbonate and plastic.
Summary – Polycarbonate vs Plastic
Plastic is a polymer that has a large molecular mass. Polycarbonate is a type of plastic. The key difference between polycarbonate and plastic is that Polycarbonates are lighter but much stronger than plastic.
1. Rodriguez, Ferdinand. “Plastic.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 26 Dec. 2018, Available here.
2. “Polycarbonate.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 May 2019, Available here.
1. “Polycarbonate PC” By Original uploader was PulkoCitron at fr.wikipedia – Transferred from fr.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Bloody-libu using CommonsHelper (CC BY-SA 2.5) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “3357340” (CC0) via Max Pixel