Plastic has benefited our society in a number of ways. In fact, plastic has helped aeronautics technology take giant steps forward over the past 50 years, including advancements in satellites, shuttles, aircraft, and missiles. As a result, civilian air travel has improved, as well as military air power and space exploration. In addition, the building and construction,electronics, packaging, and transportation industries have all benefited greatly from plastic.
Plastic in Aeronautics
Plastics were first introduced to the world of aerospace during World War II, mostly because other materials were limited. During the war, plastic slowly started to be used as a substitute for rubber in items such as fliers' boots and fuel-tank linings. Eventually, it became thepreferred material for these applications. Plastic was then used with airborne radar systems and viewed as a significant advancement in this technology because it allowed waves to pass through with minimal loss.
The fact that plastic was able to withstand heat also lead to its being recognized as an important material in aerospace technology. Today, plastics are used in the solid fuel boosters formrockets and in the ablative shields for reentry of space shuttles.
Plastic materials are also used in the making of helicopters because they are rigid and durable, yet flexible enough to withstand the vibrations made by helicopters. The fact that plastic is both lightweight and strong also has its advantages in the field of aerospace because the weight of the aircraft can be reduced by usingplastic. This results in improved aerodynamics, which leads to improved fuel efficiency and performance. In fact, reducing the weight of a jetliner by just one pound saves $1,000 in fuel during the liner's lifetime.
Plastics in the Building and Construction Industry
Plastics play a significant role in the building and construction industry as well. In fact, the industry is the second largestconsumer of plastic, followed only by the packaging industry. In the construction industry, plastics are used for items such as pipes and valves. They are also used for decorative elements and heavy-duty uses because they are so easy to handle, are durable, and are attractive. Some decorative places plastics are commonly found include bathroom units, plumbing fixtures, flooring, siding, panels,insulation, windows, doors, gratings, glazing, and railings.
Within piping and valves, plastics are highly used because of their superior resistance to corrosion. In fact, they can be used for everything from freshwater to saltwater, from crude oil to laboratory waste. In addition, they are much lighter than other materials and easier to install. They are also less expensive.
Plastics and the Use ofElectronics
Plastics are used with electronic devices for a wide number of purposes. Due to the thermal and insulating properties of plastic, it is ideal for use in house wiring. In fact, nearly all modern homes use plastic electrical connectors, switches, and receptacles.
Small appliances also take advantage of plastic. Plastic is durable, yet lightweight and attractive. Therefore, it is great formaking small appliances such as can openers, food processors, microwave ovens, mixers, coffee makers, shavers, irons, and hair dryers. Even refrigerators use a special plastic foam for insulation purposes, while the interior is made from plastic that is durable and easy to clean. Without plastic, these products would last about half as long and would use 25-30% more energy.
Computers as we knowthem today would probably not exist without plastic. Plastic made smaller computers possible by being able to house all of the electronics necessary within a dust free and well-insulated environment. Components such as circuit boards and computer chips are able to be miniaturized without losing their abilities - or while also improving their performance - thanks to the use of plastic.