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A flexible waxy translucent polyalkene thermoplastic made in a variety of ways producing a polymer of varying characteristics. In the ICI process, ethene containing a trace of oxygen is subjected to a pressure in excess of 1500 atmospheres and a temperature of 200°C. Low-density polyethene (r.d. 0.92) has a formula weight between 50 000 and 300 000, softening at a temperature around 110°C, while the high-density polythene (r.d. 0.945–0.96) has a formula weight up to 3 000 000, softening around 130°C. The low-density polymer is less crystalline, being more atactic. Polyethene is used as an insulator; it is acid resistant and is easily moulded and blown. See Phillips process; Ziegler process.

Subjects: Chemistry.

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