What Methacrylates Are & Why They Are Important
The chemical family of methacrylates was discovered in the 19th Century. The methacrylates polymerize easily and the range of monomers is used in a number of industries by polymer chemists to design polymers with a broad range of beneficial features: stability, durability, hardness and scratch resistance for example. Today over 6.57 billion pounds per year of Methacrylic monomers are used worldwide on all continents. (CEH, 2012)
Electronics and Computers
Methacrylate monomers are widely used in the electronics and computer industries to produce reliable products we use every day. In fact, if you are viewing our website on a flat screen monitor chances are that it is made with Methacrylics just as the flat screen television in your home. DVD, compact discs and laser discs are all manufactured from polymers made with Methacrylic monomers. Methacrylates are widely used in printed circuit board coatings (conformal coatings) providing them with increased resistance to attack, thereby prolonging their service life.
Medical and Dental Applications
Methacrylate polymers are used extensively in medical and dental applications where purity and stability are critical to performance. Methacrylate polymers are used in the manufacture of a wide range of medical equipment including intravenous (i.v.) tubing connectors, medical pump and filter housings, and heart valves, hyperbaric chambers and baby incubators and even artificial eye balls, to name but a few. Methacrylate polymers are also used to make artificial teeth in an industrial process, and by dental technicians in the manufacture of dentures, bridges and dental prosthetics. Methacrylate monomers are also used in the cements used during hip replacements and in the white dental fillings. The world of methacrylates continues to expand in the medical field with drug releasing coatings growing in importance.
Paints and other Surface Coatings
Most types of acrylic paint contain one or more of the methacrylate products. This includes residential, commercial and industrial paints as well as powder coatings. The properties of the Methacrylic monomers allow coating polymer manufacturers to design end use coatings that can be applied with reduced emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that play a role in formation of smog. The methacrylic monomers allow paints and coatings to be made and easily applied while producing a long durable protective surface coating that will be long lasting as it is highly resilient to weather, sunlight and other factors that can cause failure of other types of coatings. This durable property is important in all applications but can be critical in some such as for roadway marking paints.
Acrylic Cast and Extruded Sheets
Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) sheets are manufactured in a casting or extrusion process to form shatter resistant clear and colored sheets for building windows, skylights, bus shelters, bullet proof security barriers, signs, retail displays and many other applications. PMMA may also be used with a mineral filler to make artificial marble for kitchen and bath countertops or other architectural applications.
Polymethylmethacrylate is also made in beads or pellets that can be molded into many other end use products such as taillights and instrument clusters for cars and trucks. In your home you may find that the knobs on the faucets of sinks or on many of your appliances are made with PMMA. PMMA resin is molded into contact lenses and lenses for eyeglasses and sunglasses. It is used to make light lenses for commercial buildings and for the lenses used on airport landing lights.