Chemical of the Week 2 -ABS


Ok, well spotted this is ‘chemicals of the week’ rather than ‘chemical’. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) (chemical formula (C8H8)x· (C4H6)y·(C3H3N)z) is a common thermoplastic polymer with a glass transition temperature of approximately 105 °C . 



 It is a terpolymer made by the addition polymerisation of styrene and acrylonitrile in the presence of polybutadiene. The proportions can vary from 15 to 35% acrylonitrile, 5 to 30% butadiene and 40 to 60% styrene. Polymerisation is process of adding small molecules together to make very large molecules called polymers ( Addition polymerisation is covered at GCSE and condensation polymerisation at A2) . 

So what’s so exciting about ABS. Since 1963, Lego pieces have been manufactured from this strong, resilient plastic. Amazingly the LEGO group says it has manufactured 400 billion blocks made from this material but that’s about to change. The starting materials for this plastic are all derived from crude oil and LEGO have recently announced that they are beginning a process to find a renewable replacement. Now this is the fun bit for all you young chemists out there, LEGO plans to hire over 100 scientists to work on this project which aims for completion in 2030. Now if that’s not going to spur you on to a Materials science degree I don’t know what will !


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