Polyethylene is a Polymer consisting of long chains of the monomer ethylene (IUPAC name ethene). The recommended scientific name polyethene is systematically derived from the scientific name of the monomer.

In the Polymer industry the name is sometimes shortened to PE in a manner similar to that by which other Polymers like Polypropylene and polystyrene are shortened to PP and PS respectively. In the United Kingdom the Polymer is commonly called polythene, although this is not recognized scientifically.

Polyethylene is created through polymerization of ethene. It can be produced through radical polymerization, anionic addition polymerization, ion coordination polymerization or cationic addition polymerization. This is because ethene does not have any substituent groups that influence the stability of the propagation head of the Polymer. Each of these methods results in a different type of polyethylene.

Polyethylene is classified into several different categories based mostly on its density and branching. The mechanical properties of PE depend significantly on variables such as the extent and type of branching, the crystal structure and the molecular weight.

  • Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene U.H.M.W.P.E.
  • Ultra low molecular weight polyethylene U.L.M.W.P.E. or PE-WAX
  • High molecular weight polyethylene H.M.W.P.E.
  • High density polyethylene H.D.P.E.
  • High density cross-linked polyethylene H.D.X.L.P.E.
  • Cross-linked polyethylene P.E.X. or X.L.P.E.
  • Medium density polyethylene M.D.P.E.
  • Low density polyethylene L.D.P.E.
  • Linear low density polyethylene L.L.D.P.E.
  • Very low density polyethylene V.L.D.P.E.

    Depending on the crystallinity and molecular weight, a melting point and glass transition may or may not be observable. The temperature at which these occur varies strongly with the type of polyethylene. For common commercial grades of medium- and high-density polyethylene the melting point is typically in the range 120 to 130 °C ((250 to 265 °F). The melting point for average, commercial, low-density polyethylene is typically 105 to 115 °C (220 to 240 °F).

    Most L.D.P.E. , M.D.P.E. and H.D.P.E. grades have excellent chemical resistance and do not dissolve at room temperature because of their crystallinity. Polyethylene (other than cross-linked polyethylene) usually can be dissolved at elevated temperatures in aromatic hydrocarbons such as toluene or xylene, or in chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethane or trichlorobenzene.

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