Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia
Received: 30-Nov-2022, Manuscript No. JOMS-22-71530; Editor assigned: 02-Dec-2022, PreQC No. JOMS-22-71530 (PQ); Reviewed: 16-Dec-2022, QC No. JOMS-22-71530; Revised: 23-Dec-2022, Manuscript No. JOMS-22-71530 (R); Published: 30-Dec-2022, DOI: 10.4172/2321-6212.10.S4.001
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A thermosetting polymer, also known as a thermoset in the field of materials science, is a polymer created by permanently hardening (or "curing") a soft solid or viscous liquid prepolymer (resin). The process of curing is accelerated by high pressure, mixing with a catalyst, or the application of the right amount of heat or radiation. Heat is frequently produced through the reaction of the resin with a curing agent (catalyst, hardener), rather than being applied externally. An considerable amount of cross-linking between polymer chains is produced during curing, resulting in an insoluble and infusible polymer network.
Prior to curing, the raw material used to create thermosets is typically flexible or liquid and frequently intended to be moulded into the desired shape. Additionally, it can serve as an adhesive. In contrast to thermoplastic polymers, which are frequently created and distributed in the form of pellets and moulded into the final product form by melting, pressing, or injection molding, a thermoset cannot be melted for reshaping once it has solidified.
By creating covalent bonds between the polymer's constituent chains, crosslinking or chain extension occurs during the curing process, turning a thermosetting resin into a plastic or elastomer (rubber). The monomer or prepolymer mixture, as well as the crosslinking process, affect crosslink density.
Acrylic resins, polyesters, and vinyl esters with unsaturated sites at the ends or on the backbone are typically linked by copolymerization with unsaturated monomer diluents, with cure initiated by free radicals produced from ionising radiation or by the photolytic or thermal decomposition of a radical initiator. The degree of backbone unsaturation in the prepolymer has an impact on the intensity of crosslinking.
Epoxy functional resins can be copolymerized through nucleophilic addition reactions with multifunctional crosslinking agents, which are also known as curing agents or hardeners, or homo-polymerized with anionic or cationic catalysts and heat. The rate of cure is influenced by the physical form and functionality of epoxy resins and curing agents. Elevated temperature postcuring induces secondary crosslinking of backbone hydroxyl functionality, which condenses to form ether bonds. As the reaction progresses, larger and larger molecules are formed and highly branched crosslinked structures develop.
Isocyanate resins and prepolymers react with low- or high-molecular-weight polyols to create polyurethanes, and tight stochiometric ratios are necessary to regulate nucleophilic addition polymerization. The molecular weight and functionality of isocyanate resins, prepolymers, and the precise combinations of diols, triols, and polyols chosen are adjusted to the degree of crosslinking and the resulting physical type (elastomer or plastic), with the rate of reaction being strongly influenced by catalysts and inhibitors. Polyureas form almost instantly when isocyanate resins are combined with long-chain amine functional polyether or polyester resins and short-chain di When isocyanate resins come into contact with moisture, polyureas can also develop.
Due to the three-dimensional network of bonds (crosslinking), thermosetting plastics are typically more durable than thermoplastic materials. They are also better suited to high-temperature applications up to the decomposition temperature since they maintain their shape because strong covalent bonds between polymer chains cannot be easily broken. A thermoset polymer's resistance to chemical and heat attack increases with increasing crosslink density and aromatic content. Although at the expense of brittleness, crosslink density also increases mechanical strength and hardness.
Under load, hard, plastic thermosets may deform permanently or plastically. Elastomers, which may be distorted and return to their original shape upon release of the load, are soft, springy, or rubbery materials.
After curing, conventional thermoset polymers or elastomers cannot be melted and reconfigured. Usually, this makes it impossible to recycle something for the same use as filler. Thermoset epoxy resins have recently undergone improvements that allow for repeated shaping, similar to that of silica glass, by reversible covalent bond exchange processes upon reheating above the glass transition temperature. These resins produce crosslinked networks under controlled and contained heating. Additionally, thermoset polyurethanes that have been demonstrated to exhibit ephemeral qualities can be recycled or reprocessed.