Regardless of how you look at it, UHMW (short for “Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene”) brings with it a wide array of different benefits, all at the exact same time.
For starters, in addition to being nontoxic, it is also odorless and tasteless – making it ideal for a plethora of different applications. It’s incredibly resistant to corrosion, has virtually no moisture absorption, is self-lubricating, and has extremely low friction. When you also consider that it has the highest impact resistance of any thermoplastic available on the market today, it’s easy to see why it’s become such a popular choice for so many projects over the years.
But if you’ve been in the industry for very long, a lot of this is likely common knowledge. Believe it or not, UHMW still has some surprises – in fact, there are a number of qualities that are unique to this material that are definitely worth being aware of moving forward.
The Surprises of UHMW: Breaking Things Down
When a lot of people think of the benefits of UHMW, they think of the more widely known applications. Because it is a self-lubricating polymer, for example, this contributes to its exceptional abrasion resistance along with its high impact strength.
But did you realize that UHMW is also commonly used for noise-reduction materials? It’s true. Because the compounds that make up a UHMW sheet of material interact, they don’t make as much contact with other materials that you might be using in a finished product. This generates less friction, which contributes to its use in noise reduction applications.
Along the same lines, it’s been stated that UHMW has low moisture absorption – but do you realize just how low that really is? The rate itself is less than 0.01%. So not only does that make UHMW suitable for applications where it comes into direct contact with water, but it’s also particularly resistant where it comes into contact with water that is in the air. So it’s particularly adept at holding up to applications in humid environments where other options may not be able to withstand the same impact.
Many of these ideal properties are thanks to the high molecular weight of the UHMW materials. Molecular weight is defined as the ratio between A) the average mass of one molecule of the material, and B) 1/12th of the mass of an atom of carbon-12. This is what gives UHMW not only its high impact strength but its better resistance to friction and abrasion as well. To put that into perspective, not only is it better than carbon-12 in all of these areas, but it does so at a ratio of 10 to 1.
If you’d like to find out more information about some of the more interesting properties of UHMW materials, or if you’d just like to speak to a professional about your own needs in a bit of additional detail, please don’t delay – contact the team at Spiratex today.